In the upstate New York community of Kingston, a synagogue that had fallen into disuse several years ago was sold and converted into a deluxe residence, housing apartments with splendid gardens and scenic views of the Hudson River.
Most of the exterior and interior religious symbols were removed and ordinary glass replaced the original stained glass windows. However, there remains one key element, firmly ingrained in the red brick façade: Roman numerals representing the Ten Commandments, five on each side of a plain rose window. Perhaps some passersby may look up and wonder: Why are those Roman numerals there and what do they stand for? Such might be considered a normal question in today’s amply secular world.
How about “abnormal” world? American and international news media every day report on one or another misdeed, sinister event, atrocity, or other evidence of moral turpitude. The list is extensive: fake news, hate police, sexual assault, infidelity, violence against women, suicide, drug overdose, euthanasia, abortion, sodomy, mass murders, ethnic cleansing, bank fraud, corporate cheating, greed, corruption, dishonesty, cover-ups, bullying, gluttony, pride, hypocrisy—it goes on ad nauseam. Reporters can’t seem to get enough of scandals, being motivated as they are by prurience. But public revulsion does set in at some point. And people start asking: “What can be done to turn all this around?
The business world may provide a starting point. One of the first books written on organizational management (Robert Townsend’s Up the Organization, published in 1970) had a brilliant idea: If you have to provide a recommendation for how to achieve good behavior, just post the Ten Commandments! But are most people today even cognizant of them? If reporters were to stop and ask people on the street to recite the Ten Commandments, what response would they get? How many could recite all ten? Maybe some folks wouldn’t even know there were Ten Commandments—or that they had been given to Moses.
The world needs another Moses, someone to lift people out of debauchery by reacquainting them with God’s laws, and reminding them that the Ten Commandments will remain forever. These divine rules embody ethical and moral as well as religious values; they are the basis for the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Allegiance to the Ten Commandments would make the world a better place.
Someone needs to take the lead. Perhaps a morally moribund religious leader will awaken and drum up the courage to start spreading the word. The Ten Commandments rest on truth—a virtue in short supply globally. Yet, “the truth shall set you free.” Man was born free, as the philosopher noted, “but everywhere he is in chains.” People today, like those in Moses’ time, are shackled by the chains of their own sinfulness.
While the former synagogue in Kingston no longer serves its original purpose, the ten Roman numerals remain embedded in its external wall for all to see. Perhaps this site serves as a gentle reminder that it is time to spell out the Commandments once again:
I I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me
II Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
III Remember thou keep holy the Lord’s Day
IV Honor thy father and thy mother
V Thou shalt not kill
VI Thou shalt not commit adultery
VII Thou shalt not steal
VIII Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
IX Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife
X Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods