The Ten Com­mand­ments: How Our Most Ancient Moral Text Can Renew Mod­ern Life

David Hazony
  • Review
By – September 8, 2011

Although the Ten Com­mand­ments are fre­quent­ly a sub­ject of polit­i­cal and reli­gious debate today, more a sym­bol than a liv­ing doc­u­ment, David Hazony argues that the Com­mand­ments still have pro­found sig­nif­i­cance. Hazony, for­mer edi­tor of the Israeli jour­nal Azure and a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to such pub­li­ca­tions as The New Repub­lic and the blog of Com­men­tary, ana­lyzes each com­mand­ment using both tra­di­tion­al sources and per­son­al expe­ri­ence to show how the Com­mand­ments can renew the spir­it of redemp­tion in an increas­ing­ly hec­tic and mul­ti­task­ing world. 

The orig­i­nal intent of the Com­mand­ments was to cre­ate an order­ly and just soci­ety. Inter­pret­ing the Com­mand­ments in this light, Hazony reveals the mean­ings that lie beneath these ten seem­ing­ly sim­ple state­ments and their recog­ni­tion of both human weak­ness and poten­tial for redemp­tion. Unfold­ing lay­er upon lay­er of mean­ings, Hazony draws us into our­selves, our sense of life’s pur­pose, and our abil­i­ty to mod­er­ate our dri­ve for per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al achieve­ment in order to reach out to oth­ers and cre­ate the healthy, vibrant indi­vid­ual and com­mu­nal world envi­sioned by the Commandments. 

In his Intro­duc­tion, Hazony states that his inter­pre­ta­tion of the Com­mand­ments is based on his own thoughts about the Bible. As some may sug­gest that the rab­bis of Tal­mud inter­pret­ed the Com­mand­ments in the light of their expe­ri­ence and soci­ety, read­ers may come away from Hazony’s Ten Com­mand­ments with a sim­i­lar sense. But few read­ers will argue with Hazony’s deeply felt desire for greater under­stand­ing of our­selves and life’s joys and dif­fi­cul­ties and for the need to rec­og­nize our abil­i­ty and expand our efforts to bet­ter the world.

Maron L. Wax­man, retired edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor, spe­cial projects, at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, was also an edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor at Harper­Collins and Book-of-the-Month Club.

Discussion Questions