"וידבר אלקים את כל הדברים האלה"
“And G‑d spoke all these words.” (Shemot 20:1)

QUESTION: The Midrash Rabbah (Shemot 28:5) states that the voice was unique in that it had no echo. Usually, the stronger the voice, the stronger the echo. Isn’t the lack of echo from the voice of Hashem a sign of weakness?

ANSWER: The distance the voice can travel depends on the person’s strength. When the voice reaches a wall, it rebounds, producing an echo. The Midrash is implying that the voice of Hashem was so powerful that it penetrated and permeated every person and every physical part of the universe so that there was no echo.

(לקוטי שיחות חלק ה')


"אנכי ה' אלקיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים"
“I am G‑d your G‑d, who brought you out of the land Mitzraim — Egypt.” (20:2)

QUESTION: Why didn’t Hashem introduce Himself as the One who created heavens and earth?

ANSWER: The redemption from Egyptian bondage is something which the Jews had just experienced and it had a personal meaning to each and every one of them.

Moreover, the word Mitzraim” can also be read as “meitzarim” — boundaries and limitations. Torah gives a person the capability to elevate oneself above all physical limitations. Hashem is telling the Jews that He is the One who is giving them the Torah, which gives them the ability to go out of Mitzraimmeitzarim — spiritually and physically. Through the study of Torah and observance of mitzvot, a Jew can control the nature of heaven and earth, instead of being subject to its control.

(חסידות חב"ד)


"אנכי ה' אלקיך"
“I am Hashem your G‑d.” (20:2)

QUESTION: There is a Midrash Pliah — wondrous Midrash — that says “When Moshe heard Hashem say ‘I am Hashem your G‑d,’ he recited the blessing ‘shelo asani goy.’ What is the connection?

ANSWER: Rashi explains that a singular expression “Elokecha”“your (singular) G‑d was used” rather than the plural, “Elokeichem,” so as “to provide an opening for Moshe to offer a defense for the Jewish people regarding the golden calf incident. Moshe argued ‘Why, Hashem does Your anger burn against Your people? You did not give the command “There shall not be other gods unto you, to them, but rather to me alone’ ” (it says “lo yiheyeh lecha — “there shall not be unto you — in singular). Hashem accepted Moshe’s argument and let the people live.

When the Jews sinned with the golden calf, Hashem said to Moshe “And now, desist from Me! Let My anger burn against them and I shall annihilate them, and I shall make you le’goy gadol — into a great nation” (Shemot 32:10). Moshe vehemently rejected this offer and he prayed on behalf of the Jews that they be pardoned. He used as his argument that which Rashi wrote on the first commandment.”

Moshe, of course, knew prophetically that the Jews would sin, and Hashem would offer to make him goy gadol — a great nation. Therefore, when he heard Hashem giving the commandments in singular, it dawned on him that Hashem was providing him with a defense for the Jewish people. Hence, he recited the blessing shelo asani goy — “Thank You G‑d for not making me a goy — a nation. I have a convincing argument that will assure the survival of the current Jewish people and they will remain Your people forever.”

(ר' מרדכי יפה-שלזינגר בקונטרס אוד מוצל מאש, ירושלים ת"ש)


"אנכי ה' אלקיך...לא יהיה לך אלהים אחרים..."
“I am G‑d your G‑d...You shall not have any other gods...” (20:2-3)

QUESTION: Why did Hashem personally say only the first two commandments and convey the others through Moshe?

ANSWER: Though it is incumbent upon every Jew to observe all the precepts of the Torah, a prophet is permitted to tell the community to sometimes temporarily violate a Torah precept. Idolatry, however, is exempted from this rule. No one has the authority to tell any Jew at any time to transgress this prohibition (Sanhedrin 90a).

The way Torah was given to the Jewish people suggests a reason for the above-mentioned rule. The entire Torah was given through Moshe, who was the greatest of all prophets. Since he, as a prophet, was imbued with the power to transmit the Torah, Hashem vested in Moshe and his successors the strength to temporarily supersede a mitzvah of the Torah. However, the first two commandments, which forbid idolatry, were given directly from Hashem. Hence, these laws are eternal and totally unchangeable.

(אמרי רש"ד, הרב שמעון דובער אנאליק ז"ל)


"פקד עון אבות על בנים"
“He remembers the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations.” (20:5)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that this applies when, “Keshe’ochzim ma’asei avoteihem bideihem” — “When they hold the (sinful) behavior of their fathers in their hands.” This explanation is somewhat puzzling. Even if the children follow in the wicked footsteps of their fathers, they deserve punishment only for their own iniquities. Why are they punished also for their father’s wrongdoings?

ANSWER: It happens often in our society that when a father becomes old or infirm, the children or grandchildren have him legally declared senile or irresponsible. They then proceed to control the father’s assets and institutionalize him. In many of these instances the father, who was a pious Jew all his life and carefully observed the laws of kashrut, is placed in an environment where the food is non-kosher and there is no spirit of Shabbat.

During his older years, this unfortunate father is compelled to eat non-kosher and violate Torah precepts. There are cases where the father during his lifetime was an active ba’al tzedakah — generous person — and now that his children have seized control of his assets, they deny him the opportunity of giving tzedakah.

Rashi is teaching that everyone is indeed only held liable and punished for his own iniquities. However, there is an instance when the father or grandfather is the one who commits the transgression and Hashem will make the children or grandchildren account for it. This is in a case when they are “ochezim” — “holding on” — i.e. controlling the father’s life and restraining him from observing Torah andmitzvot.

In such a scenario, though it was the father who actually ate non-kosher, or violated Shabbat, or did not give any tzedakah, the children who are in control and forcing him into the present situation are the ones who will be punished for the parent’s iniquities since they caused their being committed.

(מצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי)


"לא תשא את שם ה' אלקיך לשוא"
“You shall not take the Name of G‑d, your G‑d, in vain.” (20:7)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Shavu’ot 39a) says the entire world trembled when Hashem said, “You shall not take the Name of G‑d, your G‑d, in vain.” What message was the Torah conveying that caused the entire world to tremble?

ANSWER: A story is told of a group of brothers who came to America and went into business together. A few years after arriving, they arranged for their parents to emigrate. The father was a pious, G‑d fearing Jew, with a beard, peiyot, and chassidic garb. After a short time, the father shaved off his beard and peiyot, and traded his chassidic garb for modern attire. Puzzled by their father’s behavior, they consulted his Rabbi.

When the Rabbi asked the father why he changed so drastically, he told him the following, “My sons have a large meat market. They had me sit at a table in the market and when people saw me, it encouraged them to make their purchases confident that everything is kosher. However, I soon realized that the meat they were selling was not kosher and they were using me to deceive the public. I therefore decided to shave off my beard and peiyot, so that my beard and peiyot, which represented my Yiddishkeit, should not help them sell non-kosher meat.”

Unfortunately, throughout history, the nations of the world have persecuted and tortured Jews under the guise of doing it for the “sake of Heaven (G‑d).” They claimed that the Jews are to be blamed for society’s problems and deserve to be oppressed. Also, among Jews sometimes a person hurts another while claiming that it is a “mitzvah” to do so, and it is being done “lesheim shamayim” — “for the sake of Heaven.”

Hashem’s command “Do not mention My Name in vain” may be interpreted as “Do not exploit My ‘Name’ — Torah and religion — as a means of justifying your iniquities. Do not attempt to cover them up with a veil of righteousness and virtue.”

This poignant Divine message put a shiver through everyone, and the entire world trembled in fear.

(מצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי)


"לא תשא את שם ה' אלקיך לשוא"
“You shall not take the Name of G‑d, your G‑d, in vain.” (20:7)

QUESTION: The word “et” is extra, it could have just said “lo tisa sheim...?

ANSWER: The last letters of the three words “tisa et sheim” (תשא את שם) spell the word “emet” — “truth.” Some people have a habit of saying “I swear to G‑d that it is true.” The Torah’s message is that this, too, is forbidden.


"שמור את יום השבת לקדשו כאשר צוך ה' אלקיך"
“Safeguard the Shabbat day to sanctify it, as G‑d, your G‑d, has commanded you.” (Devarim 5:12)

QUESTION: Rashi writes that the phrase “as G‑d has commanded you” means that the command to safeguard the Shabbat was already given at Marah (see Shemot 15:25). Why in the repetition of the Ten Commandments is it necessary to inform us that the laws of Shabbat were already previously given?

ANSWER: Resting one day a week makes sense to many people, since even a machine needs rest, and how much more so a human body. Moreover, thanks to the rest period, the person functions better when he works, compensating for any loss caused by the day of rest. While this makes sense, Shabbat was not given to the Jewish people as a mere day off. In the wilderness the Jews did not have to work to earn a livelihood since their food and all their basic needs were provided. Nonetheless, at Marah, Hashem gave them the commandment of Shabbat.

Moshe is now addressing the Jewish people immediately prior to their entering Eretz Yisrael. There they would have to engage in mundane tasks in order to earn a livelihood. Therefore, he is telling them, “The reason for resting on Shabbat is not because we need to recuperate from our tedious labor, but because it is a holy day which reminds us of the Omnipotent Creator and Master of the universe and of the miracles Hashem performed on our behalf in Egypt. This holy day must be sanctified and utilized as a time of Torah study and prayer.”

(כתב סופר)


זכור את יום השבת לקדשו ששת ימים תעבוד ועשית כל מלאכתך ויום השביעי שבת ... לא תעשה כל מלאכה
Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it, six days shall you work and do all your work but the seventh day is Sabbath ... you shall not do any work (20:8-9)

QUESTION: Since it says “six days shall you work,” aren’t the words “ve’asita kol melachtecha” — “and you shall do all your work” —extra?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Shabbat 69b) says “If someone is walking in the desert and he does not know when it is Shabbat, he counts six days from the day he realizes his unawareness and then observes one day as Shabbat.” Rava said, “On all the seven days of the week he may work only kedei parnasato — enough for his sustenance, i.e. enough to stay alive.” Though on the seventh day, the one he celebrates as Shabbat, he is working, nevertheless, it will be recognizable as Sabbath by the reciting of the Kiddush at the beginning and Havdalah at the end of the day.

Accordingly, the Torah is saying, [when] zachor et yom haShabbat lekadesho” — “you will remember which day is to be kept holy as Shabbat,” then “sheishet yamim ta’avod” — “during the remaining six days you shall work” [not only enough for your sustenance] but rather, “ve’asita kol melachtecha” — “do all your work.” [And unlike the case of one who selects a day as Shabbat,] “on the seventh day [which you know is definately Shabbat], you shall not do any work whatsoever” — even kedei parnosah — enough needed for sustenance.

Now, one may ask why count six days and make the seventh as Shabbat and not the reverse? To answer this the Torah concludes, that “for in six days Hashem made the heavens and the earth, and He rested on the seventh day.” Thus, you too should have six days of work preceding your Shabbat.

(חגים וזמנים מהרב ק.א. ז"ל פרנקל, ועי' בית יעקב מר' יעקב הכהן ז"ל טראב-מסלתון בשם צמח דוד)


זכור את יום השבת לקדשו
Remember the Shabbat day to sanctify it. (20:8)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Shabbat 118b) says “If the Jewish people would only observe two Shabbats according to the law, they would be redeemed immediately.” Why is our redemption contingent on the proper observance of necessarily two Shabbats?

ANSWER: The Amidah (Shemoneh Esrei) of Shabbat consists of seven berachot. The first three and last three are the same as those recited in the Amidah throughout the entire week. The central berachah discusses the Shabbat. However, the content is different in each of the three prayers of the day.

The Tur Shulchan Aruch 292, explains the distinction as follows: The three prayers correspond to three Shabbats from Jewish history.

Friday night’s Amidah corresponds to Shabbat Bereishit — the Shabbat of Creation. In this prayer we discuss how after Hashem created the world He rested on the seventh day and consecrated it as a day of rest, and remembrance of the work of Creation.

The Shabbat morning Amidah corresponds to the Shabbat of Torah giving. The Gemara (Shabbat 86b) says that the Torah was given on a Shabbat. We mention Moshe’s standing before Hashem on Mount Sinai and recall that he brought down Two Tablets on which were inscribed the observance of Shabbat, and that Shabbat is an everlasting covenant and a perpetual sign between Hashem and us.

The Minchah — afternoon — Amidah corresponds to the Shabbat of the future. It begins “You are One and Your Name One.” This is a reference to the final redemption when the world will recognize the Oneness of Hashem. The prayer directs our focus not only to the holiness of Shabbat but to the spiritual bliss of the future — the period when He will let us inherit the day which will be all Shabbat and rest, for life everlasting.

Hence, the Gemara is saying that if the Jewish people would observe two Shabbats, that is, the Shabbat of Creation and the Shabbat of Torah — i.e. properly keep the Shabbat as a day of rest and follow the Torah which was given on Shabbat — we will speedily merit the redemption and enjoy the third Shabbat, the Shabbat of the future.

(ר' מאיר ז"ל שפירא מלובלין)


"זכור את יום השבת לקדשו ... כי ששת ימים עשה ה' את השמים ואת הארץ ... וינח ביום השביעי"
“Remember the Shabbat day to sanctify it...For in seven days Hashem made the heavens and the earth ... and He rested on the seventh day.” (Shemot 20,8,11)
"שמור את יום השבת לקדשו...וזכרת כי עבד היית בארץ מצרים..."
“Safeguard the Shabbat day to sanctify it...You shall remember that you were slaves in Egypt...” (Devarim 5:12,15)

QUESTION: In the Amidah (Shemoneh Esreih) of Shabbat there is a prayer, “Yismechu bemalechutecha Shomrei Shabbat” — “Those who safeguard the Shabbat shall rejoice in Your kingship.” Why, in the Nusach Ari Siddur, in the Amidah of Maariv and Musaf does it conclude with the words “zeicher lema’asei bereishit — “a remembrance of the work of creation” — which are omitted in Shacharit?

ANSWER: In the Torah there are two reasons for the observance of Shabbat:

1) To remind us that Hashem created the entire world in six days and rested on the seventh day (Shemot 20:11).

2) To remind us that we were freed from Egyptian bondage by Hashem in order to keep His commandments (Devarim 5:15).

The command to observe theShabbat was first given to the Jewish people when they encamped in Marah, prior to the giving of the Torah at Sinai. (See Shemot 16:25, Sanhedrin 56b.) The commandment for Shabbat in Marah and in the first version of the Ten Commandments is to commemorate the creation of heaven and earth in six days. In the version of the Decalogue in Devarim, the explanation for observing the Shabbat is to remember our slavery and exodus from Egypt.

Consequently, in the evening Amidah when we say, “You have consecrated the seventh day for Your Name’s sake, for the purpose of the creation of heaven and earth...The heaven and earth and all their hosts were completed...” we appropriately conclude, “You called it the most desirable of days, ‘zeicher lema’asei bereishit’ — ‘a remembrance of the work of creation.’ ”

The middle blessing of theShabbat Shacharit Amidah begins, “Moshe rejoiced in the gift of his portion...as he stood before You on Mount Sinai and brought down Two Tablets on which is inscribed shemirat Shabbat — the observance and safeguarding of Shabbat.” The prayer continues “Veshameru b’nei Yisrael et haShabbat” — “And the children of Israel shall safeguard theShabbat...”

In the two versions of the Ten Commandments different terms are used in reference to Shabbat. In Shemot it says “zachor” — “remember the day of Shabbat” — and in Devarim it says “shamor” — “safeguard the day of Shabbat.” Since in the Shacharit Amidah the concept of shemirat Shabbatsafeguarding the Shabbat — is emphasized, obviously it is referring to the version in Devarim in which “shamor” is used. In the Ten Commandments in Devarim, the explanation for Shabbat is the commemoration of the slavery and exodus from Egypt. Thus, the words“zeicher lema’asei bereishit” — “in remembrance of the work of creation” — are omitted.

In the Musaf prayer there is a discussion of Hashem’s establishing the Shabbat and it says, “az miSinai nitztavu” — “before of Sinai (see Mateh Moshe, section 4, #460, Proverbs 8:22) they were charged with the precept concerning its proper observance.” Since the commandment at Marah was in order to commemorate creation, it is appropriate to conclude “zeicher lema’asei bereishit” — “in remembrance of the work of creation.”

(שער הכולל פי"ז אות כ"ט, ומטה משה סי' תל"ז וסי' ת"ס, לבוש סי' רע"א סעי', י')


"כבד את אביך ואת אמך כאשר צוך ה' אלקיך"
“Honor your father and mother as G‑d, your G‑d, has commanded you.” (Devarim 5:16)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that “as G‑d has commanded you,” means that the commandment to honor parents was first given at Marah (see Shemot 15:25). Why is it necessary to tell us that the law of honoring parents was already previously given?

ANSWER: Many mistakenly interpret the commandment of honoring parents as reciprocation for the care the parents bestowed upon their children. Torah, however, regards this as an erroneous rationale.

In the wilderness, everyone, young and old, children and parents, were sustained through the mannawhich fell from heaven. Their clothes miraculously grew with them and were cleaned and pressed by the clouds of heaven. The parents did not have to work to earn a livelihood in order to be able to provide for their children. Nonetheless, under such circumstances Hashem commanded the honoring of parents. Thus, honoring parents is not an act of reciprocity in which the parents are “paid back” by the children, but even when parents do nothing for their children, they must be honored merely because of who they are.

(כתב סופר)


"כבד את אביך"
“Honor your father.” (20:12)

QUESTION: The verse could have stated “kabeid avicha” — “honor your father”; the word “et” (את) is superfluous?

ANSWER: According to halachah, a person is obligated to honor his father at all times. However, the father cannot order his child to violate a law of the Torah. The first letters of the words "כבד את אביך" have the numerical value of 22. This suggests that one should only honor his father when his requests are in accordance to the Torah, written with the twenty two letters of the alef-beit.

Moreover, the last letters of the words "כבד את אביך"— spell the word “kedat” (כדת). This comes to further emphasize that one must honor his father when the request is “kedat” — in harmony with halachah.

(בית יעקב מסלתון)

* * *

Alternatively, the Hebrew alef-beit starts with an alef and ends with a tov. The extra word et was inserted as a message that the proper way to honor a father and mother is by providing them with et (א-ת) — everything they may need from alef to tav — from beginning to end.


"כבד את אביך ואת אמך"
“Honor your father and your mother.” (20:12)

QUESTION: In the Gemara (Kiddushin 31a) Rabbi Eliezer is asked, “To what extent is the mitzvah of honoring parents obligatory?” He answers, “Take a lesson from a gentile named Dama ben Netina. Once there was a need to purchase stones for the eifod (the apron worn by the Kohen Gadol). It was an opportunity for him to earn a vast sum of money, but he refused to make the sale because the key to the safe was under his father’s pillow and he did not want to awaken him. A year later Hashem rewarded him: A red heifer was born to a cow in his herd, and the Sages offered to buy it. He replied, ‘I know that you will gladly give whatever price I ask for the heifer. However, I only request that you pay me the amount of money I lost through honoring my father.’ ”

To explain to his students how far the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents extends it was necessary to tell them the loss Dama encountered by not disturbing his father’s sleep, but why was it necessary to tell them of his reward?

ANSWER: Rabbi Eliezer was conveying to his students a profound message on the subject of honoring parents.

Many are under the impression that honoring parents is something which our human comprehension dictates: Since our parents struggle to raise us and give us the best of everything, it is our obligation to reciprocate by honoring and respecting them.

According to Rabbi Eliezer this is an erroneous approach as he was illustrating using the story of Dama ben Netina. Rabbi Eliezer was telling his students that the reward he received conveys the profundity of the mitzvah.

If Hashem wanted to help him recover his loss, why was it necessarily in the form of red heifer?

The Torah is divided into three categories eidot (testimonies) mishpatim (civil laws) and chukim (statutes, laws with no apparent rationale). The ultimate statute is the law of the red heifer. It is totally incomprehensible according to our limited intellect, and we obey it only because it is Hashem’s will.

Likewise, the message to be learned from Dama ben Netina’s reward is that honoring parents is obligatory even if our thinking cannot find a rationale for it. The mitzvah of honoring parents is a super-rational law; we must do it because it is Hashem’s will.


"כבד את אביך ואת אמך"
“Honor your father and your mother.” (20:12)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Kiddushin 30b) states, “There are three partners in the forming of man: Hashem, his father, and his mother. When one honors his father and mother, Hashem considers it as though He abided in their midst and they rendered honor to Him.” What allusion is there in our pasuk to this?

ANSWER: The word "אביך" in mispar katan (single numerals, disregarding the zero in the numerical value of the Hebrew letter so that "כ"=2, "ל"=3, etc.) has the numerical value of six. The word "אמך" in single numerals has the numerical value of seven. Together they add up to 13, which is the numerical value of echad (אחד), which alludes to the One and Only — Hashem. When a person honors his father and mother, he merits “echad” — Hashem’s presence.

(שפתי כהן מר' מרדכי הכהן זצ"ל מתלמידי ר' ישראל די קוריאל זצ"ל)


"למען יארכון ימיך על האדמה אשר ה' אלקיך נתן לך"
“So that your days will be lengthened upon the land that G‑d your G‑d gives you.” (20:12)

QUESTION: The word “lema’an” — “in order that” — seems superfluous. Could it not have just said, “veya’arichun yamecha”?

ANSWER: The Jewish people eagerly awaits Mashiach’s coming, which is referred to as the keitz (קץ) — the date for the end of galut — exile. The word “lema’an” (למען) is numerically equivalent to 190, which is also the numerical value of the word “keitz.” This teaches us that through honoring our parents we will hasten the coming of Mashiach and live a long life.

The last letters of the words "כבד את אביך" have the numerical value of 424, which is the same numerical value as Mashiach ben David (משיח בן דוד), who will speedily be revealed through the great mitzvah of honoring parents.

(בית יעקב – ר' יעקב הכהן טראב מסלתון ז"ל ראב"ד ביירות)


"לא תרצח"
“You shall not murder.” (20:13)

QUESTION: Why is it that, when reading the Aseret Hadibrot in private, “lo tirtzach” is read with a patach, and when it is read in public — in shul — it is pronounced with a kamatz (“lo tirtzawch” in the Ashkenazi pronunciation)?

ANSWER: The act of murder can be performed in two ways:

1) Actual murder by shedding of blood.

2) Shaming a person in public. This is considered as murdering him because the person’s blood drains from his face, leaving him pale as a corpse (Bava Metzia 58b).

The two pronunciations of “lo tirtzach” allude to these two forms of murder. The patach, (literally “open”) which is pronounced with an open mouth, represents the type of murder in which a wound is opened in the victim and blood is shed. This is forbidden even in private.

The kamatz (literally “close”) is pronounced (in the Ashkenazi pronunciation) with the mouth somewhat closed, and it alludes to the form of murder that is committed by embarassing a person. Although the person is “closed up” — there are no open wounds and blood is not gushing out —he is nevertheless like a dead man. Such an act of murder takes place only in public.

(שי לחגים ומועדים בשם הרב י. צירלסאן ז"ל מקעשינוב)

* * *

Alternatively, the Gemara (Sotah 22a) explains that the pasuk “Ki rabim chalalim hipilah” — “For she has felled many victims” (Proverbs 7:26), refers to a disciple who has not attained the qualifications to decide questions of law, but nevertheless decides them. “Ve’atzumim kol harugehah” — “The number of her slain is huge” — refers to a disciple who has attained qualifications to decide questions of law and does not decide them. (“Atzumim” (עצומים) is from the root word of “otzem” (עוצם) — “closed up.”)

In order to pronounce a “patach” one has to open his mouth somewhat wide, and the word “patach” is similar to the word “petach” — “opening.” To pronounce a “kamatz,” (in the Ashkenazi pronunciation) by comparison, one has to form a more closed mouth shape, and the word “kamatz” is like the word “kemitzah” — “closing.”

With the different vowels the Torah is alluding to other forms of killing in addition to physical murder. The “patach” is a reference to the unqualified person who opens his mouth and says the wrong thing, and the “kamatz” is for the one who keeps his mouth closed when he is really qualified to take a stand on an issue. Either way, irreparable harm can be done.

(הגר"א)


"לא תענה ברעך עד שקר"
“You shall not bear false witness against your fellow.” (20:13)

QUESTION: Instead of “eid sheker” which means “a false witness,” it should have said eidut sheker” which means false testimony”?

ANSWER: It is possible, sometimes, that the testimony given by a witness can be true, nevertheless, the witness himself is false. A scenario for this is found in the Gemara (Shavuot 31a). A teacher said to his student “you know about me that no money can make me tell a lie. Now, so and so owes me money but I only have one witness to testify against him.” The halachah is that if the student joins the other witness and testified he will have violated “you shall not bear false witness (even if what he said is true).”

Thus, the commandment can be interpreted “lo ta’aneh be’reiacha — do not testify in unison with your friend, [in the event you are a] false witness.

Accordingly, it is also understood why it says “lo ta’aneh” and not “lo ta’id” (תעיד), because the supposed witness in not really giving testimony (saying something that he saw); he is merely “repeating” what he knows by means of hearsay.

(אבן עזרא, פרדס יוסף בשם שמע שלמה, והעמק דבר)


"לא תענה ברעך עד שקר"
“You shall not bear false witness against your fellow.” (20:13)

QUESTION: Why here does it say “eid sheker” — “false witness” — while in the second version (Devarim 5:17) it says “eid shav”“vain witness” [against your fellow]?

ANSWER: According to the Mechilta the five commandments on one stone and the five on the other correspond. Hence, the fourth on the first stone regarding Shabbat corresponds with the fourth on the second stone regarding false testimony. Since the observance of Shabbat is a testimony that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, thus, whosoever desecrates the Shabbat denies the truth of this testimony and is bearing false witness.

The difference between “sheker” — “false” — and “shav” — “vain” — is the following: “Shav” — “in vain” — applies when one swears and thereby changes what is known to be true. For instance, if one swears that a pillar of stone is of gold. Shekerfalse — is if one swears that he did something (e.g. “I ate”) and in reality he did not, or that he did not do something (e.g. “I did not eat”) and he did (see Rambam, Shavuot ch. 1).

In the first version of the Commandments the reason given for Shabbat observance is that in six days Hashem created the world and rested on the seventh. In the second version the reason given for Shabbat observance is that “You were a slave in Egypt and Hashem has taken you out from there with a strong hand” (Devarim 5:15).

We Jews firmly believe that Hashem created the world. But no human was there at the time and there are foolish people who contend — as does most of the modern world today — that the universe was not created ex nihilo. When one desecrates the Shabbat he is denying that Hashem created the world, which is analogous to false testimony.

However, the Egyptian bondage and our miraculous redemption is something which all the Jews personally experienced and which the world knew about. An attempt to deny it is comparable to an endeavor “to change what is known” and is considered offering vain testimony.

(עיטורי תורה)


"אנכי...אשר לרעך"
“I am...which belongs to your friends.” (20:2-14)

QUESTION: Why are there 620 letters in the Aseret Hadibrot?

ANSWER: In the Torah there are 613 mitzvot. In addition to this, there are seven mitzvot which were added by our Sages. Each letter in the Aseret Hadibrot corresponds to one of the mitzvot.

The last two words, ",אשר לרעך" have seven letters, representing the seven mitzvot instituted by Rabbinic ordinance:

א = אבילות, the laws of mourning.

ש = שמחת חתן וכלה , the seven days of celebration for a groom and bride.

ר = רחיצה, the laws of nitilat yadayim — washing of hands before a meal.

ל = לחם, breads and foods baked or cooked by non-Jews are forbidden to us, even if there is no problem about the kashrut of the ingredients.

ר = רשויות, the laws added by the Rabbis regarding domains where it is forbidden to carry on Shabbat, and also the distance permissible to walk out of residential area.

ע =עמלק , the laws pertaining to reading the Megillah on Purim, and the other mitzvot of PurimHaman was a descendant of Amalek, and Purim commemorates the victory over him.

ך = כהנים, the laws connected with the miracle of Chanukah, which was brought about through the Kohanim of the family of Mattityahu.

(חתם סופר)