What Are the Ten Commandments?

Yona Zeld­is McDo­nough & Who HQ; Tim Foley, illus.
  • Review
By – January 24, 2018

What Are the Ten Com­mand­ments? (What Was?) by Yona Zeld­is McDo­nough & Who HQ;‎ Tim Foley, illus. | Jew­ish Book Coun­cil

This small book does some impres­sive things. Not only does it explain the Ten Com­mand­ments and what they are (includ­ing para­phras­ing of dif­fi­cult vocab­u­lary), but also puts them into a his­tor­i­cal frame­work. Addi­tion­al­ly, it pro­vides pen-and-ink sketch­es of sev­er­al bib­li­cal scenes and char­ac­ters, includ­ing the cross­ing of the Sea of Reeds, offer­ings brought to the gold­en calf, the first bat­tle of Jeri­cho, and mul­ti­ple Egypt­ian gods. At the end of the book there are pho­tographs of the Dome of the Rock, a rab­bi read­ing from a Torah, and tourists explor­ing Mount Sinai in Egypt. A time­line is also includ­ed, allow­ing the read­er to com­pare these his­tor­i­cal events with oth­ers occur­ring simul­ta­ne­ous­ly else­where in the world.

Sec­tions in bold print explore the obser­vance of Passover; what the Sab­bath is for Jews, Chris­tians, and Mus­lims; the Old and the New Tes­ta­ments and what the terms mean in the mod­ern world; and what hap­pened to the First and Sec­ond Tem­ples. The term The Promised Land,” and its mean­ing to the Jew­ish peo­ple, is dis­cussed as well.

What Are the Ten Com­mand­ments? also rais­es ques­tions about the his­tor­i­cal accu­ra­cy of some of the sto­ries found in the Bible. Was there actu­al­ly a Moses? Did the Israelites real­ly leave Egypt? If so, why is there no writ­ten his­to­ry to ver­i­fy this infor­ma­tion since the Egyp­tians were known for “… keep­ing records of almost every­thing”? The author also men­tions that, although the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Unit­ed States pro­vides for all reli­gions, Ben­jamin Franklin sug­gest­ed that the Found­ing Fathers use the Ten Com­mand­ments as a frame­work for the Unit­ed States fed­er­al government.

Smooth­ly inte­grat­ing Jew­ish his­to­ry with his­to­ries of oth­er reli­gions, this use­ful book is rec­om­mend­ed for ages 10 to 15.

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

Discussion Questions