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Standing For The Ten Commandments: A Consideration

February 7, 2015

With regards to the practice of standing during the thrice-a-year public reading of the Ten Commandments, the argument for the practice is that just like our ancestors stood at Sinai at the original revelation, we try to reenact that. The argument against the practice is along theses lines: just like the sages abolished the daily recitation of the Ten Commandments because the sectarians back then ascribed too much importance to them, we should also avoid practices that seem to ascribe inordinate importance to the Ten commandments.

I believe that the argument against is stronger in a society where the usual Jewish sectarians tend to emphasize or venerate certain aspects of the Torah over others, and our practices, therefore, should indicate that the entire Torah is of equal importance. In Israel, for example, there are other sects, like the Samaritans and the Karaites that are still similar to those with which hazal were familiar, and it therefore makes sense that the practice would be avoided there. In America, where the jeiwsh sectarians tend to have an opposite problem, namely, denying the divinity of the Torah and the eternity of its application (think the Reform and Conservative movements permitting Sabbath desecration and forbidden relations) the practice does not seem problematic.

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