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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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peretz Meir 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. Reply

A. Cohen Jerusalem, Israel 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! Reply

Ben Anaheim 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. Reply

Corne Kempton Park, R.S.A. 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. Reply

Morton Bodanis Montreal, Canada via 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. Reply

Anonymous Kansas city, Kansas December 27, 2012

teacher 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! Reply

Morton Bodanis Montreal, Canada via 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. Reply

Anonymous Sydney, AUSTRALIA 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!

Thanks! Reply

Anonymous Flushing May 21, 2012

Very Nice! Where is this Medrash brought down? Reply

Barry St Petersburg, FL/USA 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. Reply

Shirley Los Anglees, CA April 27, 2011

This is why I am a vegan. WOW. 1&6 go alongside each other. incredible. so proud to be a vegan. It's not my job to take life. love Yanki's line "if you truly believe in G-d, you are incapable of murder." Although he then goes on to specify taking HUMAN life is wrong, I believe taking ALL life is wrong. G-d may have made us in his image, but we didn't make cows&sheep..I truly believe that what G-d does is incredible & I am no one to murder it. Reply

Anonymous Brighton, MA May 28, 2009

instead of listing the Ten like this
1) I am L-rd G-d... 6) Do not kill
2) no other gods 7) no adultery
3) no G-d's name in vain 8) Do not steal
4) Shabbat... 9) No false witness
5) Honorfather mother 10) Do not covet

Why not like this: I see more continuity this way.
1) I am L-rd G-d... 2) no other gods
3) no G-d's name in vain 4) Shabbat...
5) Honorfather mother 6) Do not kill
7) no adultery 8) Do not steal
9) No false witness 10) Do not covet Reply

Sue Kanata, On August 26, 2008

Mitzvas Actually, I am sorry I didn't stick to the topic- just posting "food" for thought, and thoughts about food.
The interest was in the origin of making the kill a Sabbath mitzvah!I meant, according to Piny the Elder, that originally, Egyptian Habiru did not eat too well.
I notice that it sure seems easier to rationalize the taking of lives for human consumption when a whole darn health rule accepts this for the Sabbath. Of course, once could not light a fire (what they used to cook on, in the old days) resulting in bad pitas and/or raw foods on the holy day. I say take the 10 commandments more seriously. Reply

Morton bodanis Montreal, Canada via August 22, 2008

Sue of Kanata You very nicely miss the point. Forget meat eating. (Just because you never heard of something doesn''t meant that it doesn't exist - it just means that you never heard of it.) This is all about words and their meanings. If you are talking about a "red ball" in one language and want to translate it into another language, you will not translate it as a "green car" in the other language. The word in the Hebrew was "murder" and when translated into English, it does not translate as "kill". The end result is the same, but the intent is different. However interesting it may be to discuss vegetarianism, it has nothing to do with correct translation of words; tick to the topic. Reply

Sue Kanata, Canada August 21, 2008

to Morton (mitzvahs and cleanliness) Actually, I have never heard this idea (meat on the Sabbath) and I presume that this tended to cover those in the early days whose diet was principally figs, because they were slaves, such that they were permitted protein for holy reasons (by arbiting legislation).

Coming from a sincere base of these ten commandments, to a vegetarian like myself, the above seems like an old-fashioned mitzvah, and fairly senseless for Jews right now (meat is full of 170 types of disease-provoking poisons and also with cancer, among other troubles)especially during a time when some meat products are having to be recalled, slaughtered because of mad-cow, or -it would be nice to exit the awful concepts of ritual slaughter, and to get rid of the bad karma of having someone kill animals for us. Reply

Morton Bodanis Montreal, Canada via August 17, 2008

To Sue, Kanata, Canada Words matter. If an action is described in one language by a particular word, then when it is translated into another language, one should use a comparable word, to maintain the correct meaning, in the other language. "Kill" and "Murder", though the result is the same, the meaning is different. In the Hebrew, the word is "Murder", so when it is translated into the comparable word is also "Murder", not "Kill". To kill can imply self-protection, or ritual slaughter, whereas to murder is an unlawful act. Also, it is a mitzvah to eat meat on the Sabbath. If we were not allowed to kill, we should not be able to perform this mitzvah. Reply

Sue Kanata, Canada August 17, 2008

To Menachem Posner I had believed that the commandments were given in Hebrew, and thank you for making that clear.
Also, thanks for clarifying how it was actually written, as transcribed.
As for Morton Bodanis, what difference is there between killing an murdering. Holy people of the Jewish faith lived well without eating meat.
It is a well suggestion one way or the other. Reply

Menachem Posner for August 17, 2008

To Susan The commandments were given in Hebrew. In the Torah they are listed in order, starting with “I am your G-d” and going on, so we know that it is the first commandment.
In our list here, we placed the first tablet on the left side since the article is written in English. However, since they were not attached, they would have been able to be arranged either way. Reply

Susan Kanata, Canada August 16, 2008

Tablas versus stencils? I love your interesting mix and match concept, but I have a question.

What language was used to express the ten commandments?
I thought that Hebrew had always been read from left to right, but do not know enough about Aramaic.

So, it looks like the first commandment should be 1. Do not kill. (and etc)

Undoubtedly these well concepts can be organized in many ways, expressing the sentiments of sanity and wishes for peace for everyone. Reply

Morton Bodanis Montreal, Canada via October 29, 2006

6th commandment Here the 6th commanement is shown as "kill". In the text, the word used is "murder". Surely there is a big difference between the two words, so why are they used interchangeably? I also believe that the correct commandment is to not "murder". If the prohibition were to not kill, then, among other things, we would not be allowed to eat meat. Reply