This week’s Parshat has a contradiction. In Exodus 19:20, it says that G-d descended upon Mt. Sinai and told dear ol’ Moses to come up and have a little conference meeting about the Ten Commandments. Later, in Exodus 20:19, it says that G-d spoke from Heaven. In fact, the Ten Commandments are told twice, each time a little different.
So which was it? Did G-d speak from a mountain top, or from Heaven? And why does the Bible contradict itself?
It’s one of those times where people say, “Ah, hah! The Bible is filled with contradicting stories! That means it’s made up and totally irrelevant to modern life.”
The famous rabbi and sage Rashi said that it’s not a contradiction, that in Deuteronomy, there is another passage that harmonizes the two together through a piece of poetry about fire and earth and yadda yadda. It’s cool, but it’s a whole lot of Torah gymnastic that’s frankly, I’m just not up for.
One lesson I gather from the Bible is how things change over time. Sometimes, G-d is a character who literally walks the earth, like the Garden of Eden. Other times, G-d is like a cloud that comes down from Heaven. And sometimes, like the Psalms, G-d is a set of metaphors in songs.
By receiving the Ten Commandments twice, in a span of one chapter, I feel that the Torah is validating our humanity. It’s saying, “Look, you will experience things at different times and in different ways. And yes, it will look different. It may be contradictory, too. But at it’s core, the value of life is still the same.” Although the Ten Commandments are different in each section, the moral values are still the same. G-d and the characters of the Bible aren’t worried about the “words of G-d” but instead the “word of G-d”.
This fluid way of looking at the Torah brings it to life, because life itself is fluid, always changing. What matters is that we draw the right lessons from it.