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How the First Commandment, "I Am the L-rd your G-d", and the Sixth Commandment, 'Do not kill", are one and the same

The First Commandment

The First Commandment


Almost everyone has heard of the Ten Commandments, and many can name at least three or four; in fact, there must be a good few million who can list all ten, in order. Less common, however, is the knowledge that this 10-point encapsulation of G‑d's message to man reads in two directions: from top to bottom, and from side to side.

What do I mean? The Ten Commandments were given to Moses engraved on two stone tablets -- five commandments on each stone -- like this:

1) I am the L‑rd your G‑d...

2) You shall have no other gods...

3) Do not take G‑d's name in vain...

4) Remember the Shabbat...

5) Honor your father and your mother...

6) Do not kill

7) Do not commit adultery

8) Do not steal

9) Do not bear false witness...

10) Do not covet... anything of your fellow's

Why on two tablets? And why are the first five Commandments on one stone and the second five on the other? (5/5 may seem an even division, but it's really not: the first five Commandments total 146 words in the original Hebrew, the second five 26.) One of the reasons given by our sages is that the five latter Commandments are actually a reiteration of the first five. In other words, we're supposed to place these two tablets side by side and read across, like this:

1) I am the L‑rd your G‑d / Do not kill

2) You shall have no other gods / Do not commit adultery

3) Do not take G‑d's name in vain / Do not steal

4) Remember the Shabbat / Do not bear false witness

5) Honor your father and your mother / Do not covet anything of your fellow's

This means that, in essence, there are only five Commandments. "Do not kill" is another way of saying "I am the L‑rd your G‑d"; the prohibition against adultery is the prohibition against idolatry; keeping Shabbat means being a truthful witness; and so on.

The Midrash explains the correlations of each of these five sets, but for starters, we'll look at the connection between Commandments #1 and #6. Why is "Do not kill" the flip side of "I am the L‑rd your G‑d"? Because, say the Sages, to murder a fellow man is to murder G‑d:

What is this analogous to? To a king of flesh and blood who entered a country and put up portraits of himself, and made statues of himself, and minted coins with his image. After a while, the people of the country overturned his portraits, broke his statues and invalidated his coins, thereby reducing the image of the king. So, too, one who sheds blood reduces the image of the King, as it is written (Genesis 9:6): "One who spills a man's blood... for in the image of G‑d He made man."

Now there are murderers who say they believe in G‑d. And there are people who are dead-set against murder who claim not to believe in a higher power. They're both wrong.

If you truly believe in G‑d, you are incapable of murder. And if you truly believe that taking the life of another human is wrong -- not just because you lack the means or motive to do so or are afraid of ending up in jail, but because you recognize the transcendent, inviolable value of life -- that's just another way of saying you believe in G‑d. Even if you're not one of those religious types who put it in those terms.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
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Discussion (24)
March 25, 2016
Murder and Killing are two difference in Judaism. Murder must have two elements, intention, and the action of take one life.while killing has only one element, "Action" no intention, for example in self defense, no intention to kill, at war, killing an enemy is not murder as you act on self defense and defend your country. Shalom.
peretz Meir
May 20, 2015
To Murder or to Kill
Murdering and killing are not the same! In Hebrew, it is stated Lo Tirzach, which means do not murder. Retzach is murder!
One who kills a fly or a coackroach is not a murderer!
A. Cohen
Jerusalem, Israel
May 11, 2015
Regarding murder, if it wrong then why does god seem to relish in it? Deuteronomy 2:34 34 And we captured all his cities at that time and devoted to destruction every city, men, women, and children. We left no survivors. Just one of many many examples.
February 23, 2014
The Ten Commandments
Murder and kill is the same thing, it take life away from the one being killed or murder. To murder or kill a human being cannot be correlated with the slaughter of a animal for food or a offering as in the Tanakh.
Kempton Park, R.S.A.
December 30, 2012
teacher by "Anonymous"
Are you just a sponge that absorbs mindlessly? Whatever one teaches should be scrutinized by the listener. This is called using your intelligence. Radical Muslim imams teach that Jews are descendents of apes and pigs. Does it follow that just because he is "teaching" that he is correct and that we aught to accept his "teachings" as truth? How can one learn if one only absorbs and does not think about what he is "learning". Again, words have meaning, and before we teach or learn, we should use the words as they were meant, and said, originally.

Though the end result is the same, "murder" and "kill" have different meanings. Use them accordingly; one may be acceptable, the other definitely not.
Morton Bodanis
Montreal, Canada
December 27, 2012
the teacher is teaching , we should be listening,taking notes, not saying this is not true? If you teach you also must be correct, with G-d's knowledge!
Kansas city, Kansas
May 31, 2012
6th commandment & Yanki Tauber

"Why is "Do not kill" the flip side of "I am the L‑rd your G‑d"? Because, say the Sages, to murder a fellow man is to murder G‑d:"

I appreciate so many people taking the time and effort to write comments. Most are groping. Yanki uses the words "kill" & "murder" intrerchangeably. He is either not thinking or he is not paying attention to what he is reading or saying. I would like to hear from him, or another sage, the reason for this interchangeability. Words have meaning, and when Hashem stated the commandments, He meant what He meant, not for a human to use the words frivolously I would like a definitive explanation. Though all comments are heart-felt, I want a professional explanation that will teach me, take me out of, not leave me in, the dark. I want to learn, but if all you do is to cast me adrift to look for my own answer, I will never know, just drift and drift.
Morton Bodanis
Montreal, Canada
May 26, 2012
The 3rd Commandment
Actually, this is not a comment but a question. What about the 3rd commandment? How is it related to 8th commandment, and also the rest of it? I was looking for a further explanations about the 4th to the 9th and the 5th to the last but I couldn't find it.

I am hoping that you can explain these to me because it's really interesting how you explained the 1st and the 2nd commandment.

'Hope to hear from you soon!

May 21, 2012
Very Nice!
Where is this Medrash brought down?
March 1, 2012
Ten commandments on two tablets
One item that was missed here is that scripture says God wrote the commandments on both sides of the two tablets. Kind of makes you question the 'read across' interpretation.
St Petersburg, FL/USA