How did the Ten Commandments
and Torah Come to be?
Most of us have been exposed to the simplified version of the giving of the Ten Commandments: Israelites are freed from Egypt, wandered in the desert, came to Mount Sinai, God told Moses, Moses told the rest. This is not wrong, just simple.
The giving of the Ten Commandments was an enormous spiritual manifestation. It took 49 days from the Exodus until the hearts, souls and minds of the Israelites were ready to receive the Laws of God. This was of the utmost importance because God was not only going to give them 10 rules to follow, but an entire five volume narrative of history, laws and instruction.
Moses led the children of Israel to Mount Sinai where they would learn how to follow God's requirements. Moses when up the mountain to talk with God and here God gave Moses the opportunity for all the people to make a covenant with Him. When Moses presented the children of Israel this opportunity, they answered with one voice, all Twelve Tribes of Israel
Moses continued to make the voyage up and down the mountain several times while God revealed the Torah. He would tell some to Moses and Moses would return to give the Word to the nation of Israel and would write it down: seems likes a straightforward process.
Nevertheless, it is this point that has perplexed Biblical scholars for centuries. What exactly was happening on Mount Sinai? Was God revealing to Moses the Torah in its entirety, even the events that had not happened? Or was God giving just the laws and the civil code of conduct for the people to follow?
According to Jewish thought, the Torah was created by God before the creation. It was then used as a blueprint for the creation and the subsequent events of Man. However, the Torah was not revealed until God wanted it revealed.
The most common notion is that in Exodus 24:4 Moses wrote down all of Genesis and Exodus up until that moment. Then he took the people to Mount Sinai where God first reveals the Ten Commandments. Here He laid down the foundation for all other laws. These covered the human relationship with God and humans' relationship with one another. With that covered God then began revealing other parts of the Torah.
On other trips of the mountain God reveals the civil code of conduct as written in the rest of Exodus and Leviticus. It is widely believed that God continues to enlighten Moses with details of the code of conduct throughout the remaining 39 years in the desert.
God then told Moses he would continue to reveal the remainder of the Torah to him, but later as they awaited the Promised Land. This went on for 39 years which is why the children of Israel are reminded of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5.
It is generally agreed upon that Moses was the author of the Five Books of the Torah. One final and perhaps most curious question from scholars come from Deuteronomy 34:5: did Moses write about his own death or did someone else such as Joshua finish the Book of Deuteronomy?
No one really know for sure, but one of the most reflective answers to this question is found in the Mishna, the codification of Jewish Oral Tradition, "Up to this point, God spoke and Moses repeated and wrote; after this point, God spoke and Moses wrote in tears."
God's ways are mysterious. As Believers we can only trust in God to reveal Himself and the answers we seek. In the tradition of Shavuot, we can contemplate the Torah and its mysteries as the answers lie within.