An introduction that proves to be a deep and thought-provoking, and even convicting, introduction: Leon Kass on The Ten Commandments, with the subtitled “Why the Decalogue Matters.” For example, this summary of “Honor thy father and thy mother”:
Summing up: the injunction to honor father and mother constitutes a teaching not only about gratitude, creatureliness, and the importance of parental authority. It insists on sacred distance, respect, and reverence, precisely to produce holiness, qedushah, in that all too intimate nest of humanity that often becomes instead a den of iniquity and a seedbed of tragedy. In Sabbath observance, a correction is offered against the (especially Egyptian) penchant for human mastery and pride that culminates in despotism and slavery. In honoring father and mother, a correction is offered against the (especially Canaanite) penchant for sexual unrestraint, including incest, that washes out all distinctions and lets loose a wildness incompatible with the created order and with living under the call to be a holy people. Adherence to these two teachings offers us the best chance for vindicating the high hopes the world carries for the creature who is blessed to bear the likeness of divinity.