The Luchos are an expression of the oneness of Torah and the root of our connection to Hashem in this world. As we previously mentioned, Rashi explains that the Aseres HaDibros include the rest of the mitzvos within them (Sh’mos 24:12). These Ten Commandments are the fundamental root mitzvos, and the other 603 mitzvos emanate from these ten root categories. An obvious question then arises: Why are the Dibros split into two separate groups, the right side and the left side? Why fragment the ultimate expression of oneness into two separate pieces?
Two Categories of Mitzvos
The commentators explain that while the mitzvos on the right side of the Luchos are bein adam laMakom (commandments between man and G-d), the mitzvos on the left side are bein adam la’chaveiro (between man and his fellow man). There are layers of meaning behind this division. The simplest lesson is that it is fundamentally important to both treat our fellow man properly and to serve Hashem; both hold extreme value. One should not view mitzvos bein adam la’chaveiro as purely a means to connect with Hashem; when engaged in a mitzvah bein adam la’chaveiro, one should see the infinite value of every human being and treat him or her with the dignity they deserve. When one visits the sick, gives charity, or helps one in need, this is not merely the fulfillment of Hashem’s mitzvah; this is also an opportunity to help and connect with another person.
The deeper meaning of this parallel is that each and every human being is created b’tzelem Elokim, as an extension and expression of Hashem in this world. While mitzvos bein adam laMakom guide us along our individual journey back to Hashem, the mitzvos bein adam la’chaveiro inspire within us the understanding that we are part of a collective, higher, interconnected self – klal Yisrael – and that we, as a united nation and whole, are a reflection of Hashem in this world.
The Parallel Between the Two Luchos
While the general juxtaposition of the mitzvos on the right and left sides of the Luchos carries fundamental significance, there is a powerful connection between the specific commandments on each side, as well. Each individual Dibrah on the right parallels the corresponding Dibrah on the left. Together, they make up a unified whole of connection to both Hashem and one’s fellow man. Let us explore these connections in detail.
Anochi Hashem and Lo Sirtzach
The first Dibrah is “Anochi Hashem Elokecha – I am Hashem, your God” (Sh’mos 20:2), the statement that establishes Hashem as the life-force of the world, the Source of reality. This statement requires us to recognize this fundamental truth and commit to living a life faithful to it. The first Dibrah on the left side of the Luchos, which parallels the Dibrah of Anochi Hashem Elokecha, is “Lo Sirtzach,” (Sh’mos 20:13) – the prohibition against murder. Hashem created each and every human being with a cheilek Elokah mi’maal (a spark of G-dliness from above), and murdering another human being eliminates that spark from the world. Anochi Hashem expresses the ultimate source of life and existence, while murder is the ultimate shattering of existence.
Furthermore, the ability to take away life belongs only to the one who gives life. Murdering another person claims the power and authority to eliminate a person’s life, essentially claiming: “I am Hashem, the controller of life.” Accordingly, murder directly contradicts the truth of Anochi Hashem Elokecha – that Hashem alone is the Source of this world and everything in it.
Avodah Zarah and Adultery
Once the primary principle of Anochi Hashem is established, the logical next step is ensuring that we are faithful to that truth.
Many think of idolatry as the worship of statues and inanimate objects. However, any intelligent person can see that a piece of wood or stone carved out by a human being could not possibly hold any power. The deeper understanding behind the worship of idolatry, as the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Avodah Zarah, perek 1), Ramchal (Ramchal, Derech Hashem – see 2:7, 3:3:5), and many others explain, is the worshiping of intermediaries instead of sourcing yourself back to Hashem Himself. Hashem created the world in such a way that there are levels of reality. Hashem is the ultimate source, and the intermediaries receive energy from Him and then manifest it into the world. Avodah zarah is when you don’t recognize Hashem as the source but rather trace things back only as far as the intermediaries. The statues that idolators “worship” are merely tangible representations of the higher forces they serve. Worshiping avodah zarah is betraying our true source for the intermediaries, the ultimate unfaithfulness to Hashem. Matan Torah established our marriage to Hashem, and idolatry is the betrayal of the commitment and connection of that marriage.
The prohibition against adultery is the corresponding Dibrah on the left. Adultery is unfaithfulness in marriage, betraying the trust and loyalty integral to a relationship. Any illicit relationship is a breakdown of what a proper relationship represents; therefore, avodah zarah and adultery are inherently connected.
Saying Hashem’s Name in Vain and Kidnapping
The third Dibrah is the prohibition against uttering Hashem’s name in vain, while the eighth, corresponding Dibrah – Lo Signov – is the prohibition against kidnapping (a form of stealing). The practical connection between the two is explained in the Mechilta, which states that one who kidnaps will then have to swear falsely to cover up his tracks.
Additionally, both kidnapping and uttering Hashem’s name in vain are a misuse of something that one does not own. One has no right to use Hashem’s name in vain, as it does not belong to him and he has no permission to use it. Similarly, kidnapping someone is a form of stealing, of taking something that does not belong to him.
There is a deeper connection between the two, as well. When one testifies in court, he must swear using Hashem’s name. This is not merely a practical requirement, but also a reflection of the essence of Hashem’s name. Hashem’s name represents objective truth: The Gemara states that Hashem’s “signature” is Emes (Shabbos 55b), as Hashem is truth. When one swears falsely or uses Hashem’s name in vain, he places Hashem’s name in the context of that which is false or meaningless, connecting Hashem to those falsehoods. This takes that which is transcendent and corrupts it, displacing it from its lofty, proper place.
When one kidnaps someone, he does the same. He takes a person who was created b’tzelem Elokim and displaces him, removing him from his proper status and place in the world, treating him as an object. Just as displacing Hashem’s name from its proper lofty place shows a complete lack of respect for Hashem’s greatness (Ibn Ezra, VaYikra 19:12), kidnapping shows a complete disregard for humanity’s greatness.
Shabbos and False Testimony
The fourth Dibrah on the right side of the Luchos is the commandment to remember and guard Shabbos, while the fourth Dibrah on the left side is the prohibition against false testimony in court.
The parallel between these two Dibros is the use of testimony and speech. Shabbos is when we testify that Hashem created and runs the world, realigning and reconnecting ourselves to this truth and correcting any false perceptions that we may have developed throughout the week. False testimony is a corruption of this principle, using testimony to distort the truth. It is interesting that lying can only occur in this world, where hiddenness and deceit exist. In this world, one has the ability to pretend that something that exists does not exist, and vice versa. In Olam HaBa, however, everything is transparent and clear; lying is impossible, and truth permeates everything. This is why the Gemara compares Shabbos to Olam HaBa (B’rachos 57a). Shabbos connects us to the ultimate truth, to our ultimate destination, to a state of absolute clarity. It connects us back to creation, and simultaneously, toward our ultimate destination. Even deeper, though, it also connects you to who you are right now, allowing you to fully experience who you have become, to fully experience your own internal truth.
Another parallel between Shabbos and false testimony is the concept of connection. Shabbos connects all aspects of life together. It is a time when the spiritual is closer to the physical, when the soul is more connected to the body (which is the principle of neshamah y’seirah). Shabbos is also when Hashem and klal Yisrael connect on a deeper level, and when klal Yisrael connects most deeply with each other. Lying, however, achieves the opposite. It uses speech to create disconnection. While speech is the mechanism of expressing internal truth outwards, lying is a manipulation and misuse of the very purpose of speech. Speech gives a person the ability to express his inner world, to genuinely connect with other people through sharing inner consciousness, expressed outwards through speech. When a person shares a lie, the other person thinks that he has connected with you, that he knows something from within your inner world, that you have bequeathed a piece of your very self to him. In truth, however, all he has is the lie you have fed him.
Interestingly, the Hebrew word for connection is “kesher,” and, not coincidentally, the Hebrew word for a lie is “sheker” – the exact same letters but scrambled. Falsehood is a corruption of what could have been genuine connection. Sheker, falsehood, is taking the potential for connection and perverting it into disconnect and falsehood. While the listener thinks he is connecting to you, nothing could be further from the truth.
In our next article, we will delve more deeply into this topic and try to understand the deep and unique connection between the last pair of Dibros, Kibud Av VaEim and Lo Sachmod. In the meantime, may we be inspired to fully embrace the inner depth of the Aseres HaDibros and bring that Torah depth into our lives and use it to fundamentally transform our avodas Hashem.
Rabbi Shmuel Reichman is the author of the bestselling book, The Journey to Your Ultimate Self, which serves as an inspiring gateway into deeper Jewish thought. He is an international speaker, educator, and the CEO of Self-Mastery Academy. After obtaining his BA from Yeshiva University, he received s’micha from RIETS, a master’s degree in education, a master’s degree in Jewish Thought, and then spent a year studying at Harvard. He is currently pursuing a PhD at UChicago. To invite Rabbi Reichman to speak in your community or to enjoy more of his deep and inspiring content, visit his website: www.ShmuelReichman.com.