The Torah is the name of the central literature of Judaism. Within it lay all of the core concepts, beliefs and traditions of the Jewish religion. Also embedded in the Torah are legal codes that are still practiced. There are a few in which I will examine in this paper.
The first set of legal codes I will be examining are from the book of Exodus 20: 18-23:33. This passage opens with Moses talking to the Hebrews about them talking with God and to not fear him. God then tells Moses the laws that he would like them to follow. The first of set of laws concern idols other than God and alters built to honor him. God then talks about how to handle Hebrew servants. It is kind of ironic that He is talking about Hebrews as servants after he just finished freeing them from servitude. God instructs the Hebrews on how to deal with personal injury among themselves. Protection of property and communal accountability are laid out for the Hebrews. God lays out his laws for justice and compassion among themselves and others the Hebrews encounter. The final laws that God instructs the Hebrews on are the days of Sabbath and the three festivals.
These sets of laws encompass the everyday aspects of life that Hebrews will encounter. These more or less make up a code of ethics and societal norms that God would like the Hebrews to follow. The Book of the Covenant was made to form structure for life for the Hebrews for everyday life. They are laws of morality.
The Decalogue, more commonly known as the Ten Commandments, are another set of laws God passed onto the Hebrews. While the Book of the Covenant were a set of laws to govern everyday life, the Decalogue is a code of laws to live by. In a sense the commandments can be broken down into groups. The first set of commandments are about servicing God, not putting one before him, acknowledging God is god, do not worship other idols and do not take God’s name in vain. The next group of commandments deal with life. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, honor the mother and father, do not kill, do not steal and do not commit adultery. It is pretty simple, straightforward stuff. The last group of commandments deal with “thy neighbor.” It was a term used for anyone other than the self. Do not bear false witness against thy neighbor and do not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, animals, or just about anything about your neighbor might own. The Ten Commandments were God’s version of ultimate right and wrong. These are his laws that were unnegotiable. These laws are important not only for what they represent to Hebrews but for their timing as well. The Decalogue was the first set of laws that God presented to the Hebrews and are the basis for all of the other commandments in the Torah.
The Ten Commandments are a huge part of the Torah and are a foundational stone of not only Judaism but Christianity as well. That alone shows how important they are.
The final set of laws to be examined is the Holiness Code. The Holiness Code is only called “Holiness Code” because the word holy is constantly repeated in it. Holy is not the only word repeated in the passage, the word “Lord” is repeated a lot as well.
The Holiness Code covers a lot of different topics that are not necessarily covered the Book of the Covenant. In actuality the Holiness Code seems like an extension of the Book of the Covenant by covering topics that are not included in the latter. Some of the laws, or topics covered would seem bordered on the extreme. The slaughtering of animals is the first topic covered but it is followed up by the naming of the prevention of eating/drinking of blood. Must have been an issue back then. The next set of laws is one of the more notable sets of laws. It concerns sexual practices. Some of the banned sexual practices were men “sleeping” with men, having sexual relations with beasts, having sexual relations with family members among others. Hebrew rites and moral holiness are laid out in the Holiness Code. The Holiness Code touches upon everything from festivals to holy rites to Sabbaths and rewards and punishments for obedience and violations.
The Decalogue, the Book of the Covenant and the Holiness Code all kind of flow into each other if read in order of creation. The Decalogue, then the Book of the Covenant and finally the Holiness Code are all kind of extensions of each other and grow upon each other. They are not much different from each other. The content may be different because they are covering different topics but they each grow out from its predecessor and expand on the content of life as it related to the Hebrews during that time. Each set of laws taken individually and as a whole represent a way of life for Hebrews that still exist and carry major importance to today.