Wisdom from the Hasidic movement sheds light on our Hebrew wanderers in the matter of the fifth commandment, which has an additional phrase in Deuteronomy that it does not have in Exodus. The difference can be explained by the concept of gadlut and katnut. Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev (1740-1810) was the successor of the Baal Shem Tov. Two paragraphs from his writings give us insight in the concepts of gadlut and katnut, which He relates to the Ten Commandments.
Rabbi Yitzhak wrote: “Some serve the blessed creator because of the great bounty that is bestowed upon them by obedience, this is called the “lesser mind.” A service of God with a small degree of consciousness – i.e., katnut. Others serve Him because He is master, ruler, and king, paying no attention to the blessings or rewards that God may shower upon them. All such benefits and pleasures are as nothing to them compared with the true joy of serving their blessed Creator. Such a one is said to be serving God with the “greater mind,” or gadlut.”
Rabbi Yitzhak makes an interesting point from the Exodus and Deuteronomy records of the Ten Commandments. In Moses’ first trip down the mountain with God’s tablets of the law (Exodus 20), the commandment to honor your father and mother went thus: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).Moses descends the mountain to find that the Israelites, in fear of being abandoned, have reverted to the idol worship of Egypt. Creating a replica of Egypt’s Apis Bull, used to forecast the national future of the people of Egypt, they have attempted to replace the leadership of Moses and God with something more familiar and predictable. They then celebrated the golden calf as they had seen Egypt celebrate the birth of a young apis bull – a national celebration of submission to Egypt’s gods. It was not disco music that they rose up to dance to – it was celebration in ritualistic cult style.
This has to explain the Deuteronomy record of the same Ten Commandments where the fifth commandment has an addition:“Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long, and that it may GO WELL WITH YOU, in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Dt. 5:16).The phrase, “And that it may go well with you” lema’an yitav le-cha, is the addition here. Yitav is from the Hebrew root “tov” meaning “good.” But here in context of the phrase, it has the connotation of “if you do this, I will do that” type of reward.
Rabbinic commentaries say that the first time down the mountain, God expected of His people that to serve Him as Almighty was enough – His people proved Him wrong. The second reference adds the qualifier to make an everlasting impression upon all of us. What Does This Have To Do With Us?
God’s manifest presence is different than God’s sustaining presence. Aaron saw God’s manifest presence in the fire of the mountain and he was terrified by God’s voice at Horeb. And yet, Aaron built a golden calf to appease the people. There was his brother Moses upon the mountain talking to the God of the Universe. Soon Moses would come down and tell the people what God had said. This was a moment of gadlut and Aaron was turning it into a moment of katnut. Signs and wonders are certainly not to be disdained, but the evidence says that they will not turn katnut to gadlut in the spirit of a human being. The account of the thunder and lightning going on atop the mountain, surrounded with dark clouds with the earth rumbling at the presence of God, certainly did not make much of an impact on the people.
The Levites saw God’s glory. Yet, at the time of the monarchy, they turned to idolatry between the time of the monarchy and the last years. They moved from gadlut in their worship to katnut. Sadly, they also led others into the same. “The Levites who went far from Me when Israel went astray and who wandered from Me after their idols must bear the consequences of their sin. They may serve in My sanctuary, having charge of the gates of the Temple and serving in it; they may slaughter the burnt offerings and sacrifices for the people and stand before the people and serve them. But because they (the Levites) served them (the people) in the presence of their idols and made the house of Israel fall into sin, there I have sworn with uplifted hand that they must bear the consequences of their sin, declares the Sovereign Lord. They are not to come near to serve Me as priests or come near any of My holy things or My most holy offerings; they must bear the shame of their detestable practices. Yet will I put them in charge of the duties of the temple and all the work that is to be done in it” (Ezek. 44:12-14).
In contrast, the sons of Zadok saw God with different eyes. Their perspective was gadlut in all matters concerning service to God Almighty. “But, the priests, who are Levites and descendants of Zadok and who faithfully carried out the duties of My sanctuary when the Israelites went astray from Me, are to come near to minister before Me; they are to stand before Me to offer sacrifices of fat and blood, declares the Sovereign Lord. They alone are to enter My sanctuary; they alone are to come near My table to minister before Me and perform My service” (Ezek. 44:15,16).On this somber note we must take heart from other sections of Scripture. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews is a ray of sun breaking through the clouds, as God will reverse the process from katnut back to gadlut.
“The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First He says: This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put My laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then Paul adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. Therefore brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great Priest over the house of God, Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:15-23).
One final but very encouraging word comes to us from King David in one of his most intimate Psalms. David begins Psalm 18 telling the Lord that he loves Him. But the word he chooses to use is used only once in the Scriptures. The first verse sets the tone for the Psalm . . . “I love You O Lord, my strength.” Erchamcha is the word David uses whose Hebrew root is rachem (mercy). But, “rechem” (womb) is from the same root. In verse 35 of the same Psalm David shows what has made him great.“You have also given me the shield of Your salvation: and Your right hand has held me up, and Your gentleness has made me great” (Ps.18:35). The word translated as “gentleness” is the Hebrew word anvah, which is much more than meets the eye. Anvah also means to stoop down to a lower level – to condescend. By sending His Messiah, God stooped down and made the way for us to be great. God wants to move us up to a new gadlut position in Him.