I had a non-religious relative, who has already passed away (and I assume now regrets his lack of investment in the spiritual deeds that are the source of enjoyment in the next world), who once tried to justify his behavior by stating to me, “at least I keep the Ten Commandments”.
I decided to play with him and said to him, “that’s great! That means you have committed yourself to keep Shabbat (Sabbath) which is part of the ‘Ten Commandments’ “.
That relative thought about it for a moment (for example, the changes to his lifestyle that Shabbat requires) and then said, “you are right, I don’t keep the Ten Commandments”.
This relative gave up on the “just the Ten Commandments” ideology rather quickly, however, there have been others in Jewish history, that were willing to observe the Ten Commandments as an excuse to exempt themselves from the rest of the commandments of the Torah.
The Rabbis of the Talmud were very concerned about fighting the “Just the Ten Commandments” ideology, to the extent that they eliminated from most prayers, the recitation of the “Ten Commandments”.
Here is Sefaria.org’s translation of Berakhot 12a regarding this issue:
The Gemara related above that the priests in the Temple read the Ten Commandments, along with the sections of Shema, VeHaya im Shamoa, VaYomer, True and Firm, Avoda, and the priestly benediction.
Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said: Even in the outlying areas, outside the Temple, they sought to recite the Ten Commandments in this manner every day, as they are the basis of the Torah (Rambam), but they had already abolished recitation of the Ten Commandments due to the grievance of the heretics, who argued that the entire Torah, with the exception of the Ten Commandments, did not emanate from God (Jerusalem Talmud). If the Ten Commandments were recited daily, that would lend credence to their claim, so their recitation was expunged from the daily prayers.
That was also taught in a baraita that Rabbi Natan says: In the outlying areas, they sought to recite the Ten Commandments in this manner, but they had already abolished their recitation due to the grievance of the heretics.
The Gemara relates that several Sages sought to reinstitute recitation of the Ten Commandments, as Rabba bar Ḥana thought to institute this in the city of Sura, but Rav Ḥisda said to him: They already abolished them due to the grievance of the heretics.
So too, Ameimar thought to institute this in the city of Neharde’a. Rav Ashi, the most prominent of the Sages in that generation, said to him: They already abolished them due to the grievance of the heretics.
I used the term “Ten Commandments” since this is the popular name given to the ten statements, written on the stone tablets that Moshe (Moses) brought down from Sinai. However, as Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom points out that the term is not precise because depending on how you understand certain words you have between 13 and 16 Mitzvot (commandments) but no way only ten on the stone tablets.
The Above Serves as a Precedent for Other Battles against Replacement Theology within the Jewish World
Some Rabbis but not all, based on the precedent of removing the “Ten Commandments” from the daily prayers felt it was also improper to give preferential treatment to the “Ten Commandments” when we read from the Torah in the synagogue. See https://images.shulcloud.com/291/uploads/Announcements%2F2017%2FAdopt-A-Kollel-Newsletter%2FYisro—The-Special-Status-of-the-Ten-Commandments.pdf for details.
It is my opinion that the problem of “replacement theology” is not limited to the so called, “Ten Commandments”. Other aspects of Judaism are also abused by replacement theology.
Post by: Shlomo Moshe Scheinman
Appendix: Since Jews are obligated in much more than just the “Ten Commandments”, why did I try to get my Non-religious relative to at least observe Sabbath? See Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s Why the Sabbath for a start of an answer to this question. See also Shabbat: The Eternal Covenant
Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35 ) by Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen (although it is quite possible without the blessing of the Chafetz Chaim) the individuals in the article might have gotten a different result. There is a concept the Tzaddik decrees and the Holy One Blessed be He, fulfills (based on Moed Katan 16b, Kli Yakar to Deut. 28,8, Malbim II Kings 4:17 and additional sources).