This morning, we buried my stepfather, Steven Tulkin, who has been a father figure since I was 12 years old. Having officiated at many funerals, it was jarring to just be a mourner, but it was also extremely comforting to be surrounded by family and friends who cared so much about a man who lived by Jewish values and dedicated his life to caring for others. Steve loved studying Torah and would regularly tune in to the teaching sessions I offered online during the pandemic. He would often call me afterwards, offer his support, and tell me about a specific lesson he took away from the class. Therefore, it’s fitting that we laid him to rest during this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, which includes the 10 Commandments. As a psychologist, he spent his days helping people address their challenges, empowering them to gain clarity, emotional fortitude, and confidence. He guided people to unlock their potential and offered them tools to be successful in life. The 10 Commandments offer us similar guidance, illuminating a philosophy and providing strategies to help us create lives of meaning and purpose. Based on the original language used in the Torah (Ex. 20:1-14), the following list is my own, modern interpretation of the 10 Commandments, and a guide towards purposeful living:
1. Have faith.
2. Don’t build self-worth around the wrong definitions of success.
3. Words matter. They hold power. Choose, and use, them carefully.
4. Rest on Shabbat. The world will go on without you and be there when you return.
5. Honor your history. Learn it, and have reverence for it.
6. Respect the value of human life.
7. Your needs don’t supersede that of others. You are not the center of the universe.
8. Don’t steal, whether it be time, innocence, money, or anything else.
9. To live a life of purpose, of wholeness, we must be honest with others and with ourselves.
10. If you follow the first nine commandments, you won’t want anyone else’s life and you won’t have to covet anything.
Today, my family and I are focused on the 5th commandment - honoring our history (as it states in Ex. 20:12, ‘Honor your mother and father’). As we share stories and memories of Steve, we are doing more than just remembering the past. We are taking the lessons and experiences of a man’s life and reflecting them back on ourselves, looking for ways that we can ensure that when our own time comes, we are remembered for a life worthy of blessings, love, and honor.
*Pictured above are the Ten Commandments inlaid above the ark in the Sanctuary of Wilshire Boulevard Temple.