The Cognitive Revolution? A Shavuot Story: A Ten Commandments’ Tale

author yuval noah harari, in his best seller “sapiens, a brief history of humankind”, describes humanity’s cognitive revolution. during this event, humankind gained “the ability to transmit larger quantities of information about the world surrounding…”, “the ability to transmit larger quantities of information about…social relationships”, and “the ability to transmit information about things that do not really exist, such as tribal spirits, nations, limited liability companies and human rights.”

the cognitive revolution’s wider consequences included “larger and more cohesive groups, numbering up to 150 individuals”, “cooperation between very large numbers of strangers”, and the “rapid innovation of social behavior.”

was mt. sinai a part of this cognitive revolution? did the shavuot holiday- the celebration of the deliverance of the torah and ten commandments upon the children of israel- advance humanity?

presently, images increasingly compete with words. decades ago, a heart drawn on a letter sufficed. today, text messages and emails are abundant with smiley faces, thumbs up, or two hands in a prayer or please position. likewise, larger ideas have been reduced to either abbreviations or words. for example, the four letters of both maga and woke in the united states are emotion packed. these phrases reduce a large tribal ideologies into simple utterances.

likewise, “the ten commandments” is a reduction of something much bigger. evoking “the ten commandments” is evoking the bible. the bible references a huge library of law, wisdom, and prophesy which has been massively distributed throughout the world. further, technology has made the text accessible via internet and applications.

mt. sinai marked a spark in this revolution. the children of israel collectively heard the ten commandments. with the knowledge spread among them, they were perhaps the first individuals who could say to one another “i follow the ten commandments.” these simple words conveyed the expression of extensive values and conduct. those hearing those words understood the speaker’s ethical platform. they knew how the person would likely act as well as formed a probable expectation of what their conduct would be.

as we move to present times, when i encounter a christian who evokes the ten commandments, i appreciate that they are individuals who value both the old and new testament. when i encounter a jewish person, i appreciate that they value the hebrew bible. the “ten commandments” cognitively reduced the “ten words” [which is another name for the commandments] into two.

as we move the ten commandments to present day, while each of us may be strangers, if we did meet and expressed a concurrence that we believed in the “ten commandments”, despite our unfamiliarity, there is a likelihood that we would be able to cooperate with each other. perhaps, we could be good neighbors. with this, the mere utterance of the “words” conveys to others that we are decent human beings. we can share our beliefs with two words. in essence, two words can create a bigger and better society upon which strangers and all kinds can thrive.

be well!!

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Published by biblelifestudies

I am a practicing lawyer and long term admirer of the bible

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