Parshat Yitro: A Guide To Living Good Lives

Ilan Beck
Ilan Beck (Courtesy of the Beck family)

By Ilan Beck

In Parshat Yitro, the people of Israel escaped Egypt and walked to Mount Sinai. They are there to receive the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments are the tablets containing the code of conduct according to which the people of Israel should act. Contrary to popular belief, Moses received all the 613 mitzvot rather than just the Ten Commandments when he ascended Mount Sinai. Some say that the Ten Commandments as we know them today represent categories that we can put all 613 mitzvot into. For example, all the mitzvot relating to keeping Shabbat are represented by the fourth commandment, to keep the Sabbath; and all the laws relating to respecting God are represented by the third commandment, to not mention the Lord’s name in vain. Each of the Ten Commandments themselves are also very important and can lead to a domino effect of good or bad deeds. For example, the 10th commandment is not to covet. If we coveted, then that could lead to some other very bad actions, like stealing, which we are also told not to do in the eighth commandment.

We see this idea of one thing leading to another in Pirkei Avot 4:2: “For one good deed leads to another good deed, and one transgression leads to another transgression.” In our everyday life, just as not following one of the Ten Commandments can lead us to more sins, following the Ten Commandments can guide us to do more good deeds than just the 10 specifically mentioned.

I have been a Boy Scout for three years, and I see a connection between the Boy Scout law and the Ten Commandments. Like the Ten Commandments, the Boy Scout law guides us to live a life full of good deeds. The Boy Scout law says that a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. The Boy Scout law is different from the Ten Commandments because the Boy Scout law is less focused on rules to help society function but rather is focused on traits that every scout should follow. However, these traits from the Boy Scout Law can relate to the actions that the Ten Commandments talk about. For example, the 12th quality of the scout law, to be reverent, relates to the second commandment, to worship no other gods. The first point of the scout law, to be trustworthy, relates to the ninth commandment, to not bear false witness against your neighbor.

I think that the Ten Commandments and the Boy Scout law are both guides to doing our best work and living good lives. I encourage everyone to think about what the Ten Commandments and the Boy Scout law would say about your actions before you proceed with them.

Ilan Beck is a seventh grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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