As a Jewish individual, there are some accounts in history that you just remember since there are imbedded into your mind as a staple or the foundation for your religion and even as part of your culture. In the Tanakh, Deuteronomy 6:1 says that “And this is the instruction-the laws and the rules. – That the LORD your G-d has commanded me to impart to you, to be observed in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy”(Deuteronomy 6:1). If you were to read this as a stand-alone statement, you cannot assert any explanation to what this means. However, if you were to use this as a complimentary statement to tie in Exodus 19-24, it would make sense. The reason why this statement makes so much contextual sense is that we are told the story of the Jewish peoples escaping from Egypt as well as their journey to the promise land in Exodus. Through this story, we begin to learn of the laws, the expectations, and the commands G-d gives his people.
The essentials are explained in the next few sentences. On their journey, Moses gets to Mount Sinai and is told by the holy one to climb the mountain. At this time, both he and G-d are supposedly writing the five books. Moses is also given the Ten Commandments. Now, to examine exactly what Moses and G-d did collaboratively is simple. The Torah is simply the account of the Jewish people and imbedded inside of it are six hundred and thirteen laws. Now, if you think of what the ten commandments are, they are the ten golden rules, the “critical ones” perhaps that we are taught to drive into the ground and into our minds what we must do in order to obey the Holy one.
By knowing the details above, we can then analyze this text on a scholarly level. First, it is necessary to dissect this statement. The statement: “And this is the instruction-the laws and the rules. -” says a few things. First, it says, G-d has spoken to Moses and from this conversation, the two of them have come to an understanding and agreement perhaps of what a person is required to obey. It also does not make any differentiation between the word laws and rules. G-d’s uses a very definitive voice using the word “law”. On the other hand, the mutual decisions made between G-d and Moses using the word “rule” is clearly heard in the text but never mentioned as LAW verses RULE. If the people do not follow this course or path that G-d has set out for them, the result with not have a good influence on the people especially as these people the land of their own people. This is justified in the statement ” that the LORD your G-d has commanded me to impart to you, to be observed in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy.”
One example of a law is: “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day, you shall cease from labor in order that your OX and your ass may rest, and that your bondman, and the stranger may be refreshed. (Exodus 23:12) Whenever you here the word “shall” with very explicit instructions, it usually suggests that G-d requires a person to do that action. This instance simply says that a person should worship G-d on all day but on one particular rest and worship him especially. During that day, everyone should reformulate the bonds and rest so that a more productive work environment existed. So by G-d making the direct statements with the word shall, we know this is a MUST laws in the text.
An example of rule follows the above statement. In Exodus 23:13, we read, “Be on guard concerning all that I have told you. Make no mention of the names of other G-ds; they shall not be heard on your lips.” This statement is both a rule and a law. The rule is just making sure you are actively aware of your surroundings and the actions of other people. G-d does not say you must do it. He just says it would be for your benefit that you do this. This can be extracted from the statement: Be on guard concerning all that I have told you. ” However, G-d then makes the mention that at the same time you shall not do the following:” Make no mention of the names of other G-ds; they shall not be heard on your lips. He says essentially: you must at the same time not believe in or mention the name of another figure of worship because if you do, then you void his identity and you no longer are apart of his people. Therefore, by examining the language of law verses rule has a clear boundary because its directness is shaped much differently.
There is no authoritative opinion since this is the primary source. Since no commentary exists, we cannot view the author’s perspective except from the text itself. Therefore the authors whoever it might be wanted us to understand the seriousness of the text by using the languages they did. The lesson I took from this is that the language says a lot. If the words are strong and the image given is very explicit, this is definitely something G-d wants you to follow in a specific formulaic structure. On the other hand, if G-d proposes a statement but never elaborates into the specific details, we can collaborate the idea as a rule. The most important thing though is that the examination of the language tells us if not screams to us certain details that we may not follow. Therefore, paying attention to key directional words such as shall, aware, commanded, and observed are very important since they hold the core content in the text together.