Today is Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Ten Commandments. Torah doesn’t speak of them as commandments but rather as words. I interpret “words” as vows, and, in my book Minyan explore them as such. Here are the Ten Vows as published in Minyan. I will be sharing these with my students today during our retreat. I look forward to their response, and yours.
1. God is the source of liberation. Aware of the suffering caused by enslavement to things and ideas, I vow to free myself from all addictions and compulsive behaviors, both material and spiritual.
2. God cannot be named. Aware of the suffering caused by gods created in our own image for our own profit, I vow to recognize all ideas about God as products of human beings, bound by history and circumstance, and forever incapable of defining the Reality Beyond Naming.
3. God cannot be owned. Aware of the suffering caused by the misuse of God and religion in the quest of power, I vow to liberate myself from all ideologies that demonize others, and to honor only those teachings that uphold the freedom and dignity of woman, man, and nature.
4. Remember the Sabbath. Aware of the suffering caused by slavish attachment to work, consumption, and technology, I vow to set aside the Sabbath as a day of personal freedom, creativity, and play.
5. Honor your parents. Aware of the suffering caused by old age, I vow to care for my parents to the best of my ability and to promote the dignity and well-being of all elderly people.
6. Do not murder. Aware of the suffering caused by the wanton destruction of life, I vow to cultivate respect and gentleness toward all beings.
7. Avoid sexual misconduct. Aware of the suffering caused by sexual irresponsibility, I vow to honor human sexuality and never degrade it through violence, ignorance, selfishness, or deceit.
8. Do not steal. Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, injustice, theft, and oppression, I vow to respect the property of others, to work for the just sharing of resources, and to cultivate generosity in myself and my community.
9. Do not lie. Aware of the suffering caused by harmful speech, I vow to speak truthfully and with compassion, to avoid gossip and slander, and to refrain from uttering words that cause needless division or discord.
10. Do not covet. Aware of the suffering caused by endless desire, I vow to live simply and avoid debt, to enjoy what I have before seeking to have more, and to honestly and justly labor for what I desire.