Parshat Kedoshim and the Ten Commandments

This shiur provided courtesy of The Tanach Study Center In memory of Rabbi Abraham Leibtag

It's not very difficult to find the Ten Commandments 'hiding' in Parshat Kedoshim, at least most of them.  [See Ramban, Ibn Ezra, and Chizkuni on 19:2.]

In the following shiur, we study the nature of this parallel (and its 'missing links') in an attempt to uncover its deeper meaning.


In the first four pesukim of Parshat Kedoshim, the parallels to some of the 'dibrot' [the Ten Commandments] are rather obvious [e.g. honoring one's parents, keeping Shabbat, idol worship etc.].  However, as the Parsha continues, the parallels become less obvious, and as we will see, some of the parallels to the dibrot become rather 'stretched' and others appear to be missing!

Nonetheless, it would be logical to assume that there must be a deeper reason for these parallels, and the manner of their presentation.

We begin our shiur by taking note of an interesting internal pattern within Parshat Kedoshim, that may help us 'crack the code'.

The Ani Hashem Delimiters

As you review the first 18 pesukim of Parshat Kedoshim, note how the 'refrain' ANI HASHEM is repeated EIGHT TIMES (at the end of just about every other pasuk).  Note as well how this refrain appears in two different forms:

  • ANI HASHEM ELOKEICHEM - the first four (see 19:1-10);
  • ANI HASHEM - the next four times (see 19:11-18).

This pattern suggests that these mitzvot divide into TWO groups.  The distinction between them is also rather obvious:

  • The ANI HASHEM ELOKEICHEM group contains primarily mitzvot 'bein adam laMakom' (between man & God) and hence is parallel to the first five DIBROT;
  • The ANI HASHEM group contains primarily mitzvot which are 'bein adam leChavero' (between man and his fellow man), and hence is parallel to the last five DIBROT.

To verify this, note how the ANI HASHEM ELOKEICHEM group contains obvious parallels to four of the five first DIBROT:

  •   ANOCHI (see 19:2);
  •   LO YIHIYEH (see 19:4);
  •   LO TISA - [no apparent parallel]
  •   SHABBAT (see 19:3); &
  •   KIBBUD AV (see 19:3).

Note, however, that we have two problems.  First of all, we did not find any obvious parallel for the third Commandment.  But we also did not find any parallel for the laws discussed in 19:5-10 [i.e. the laws of 'pigul' and 'pe'a' etc.].  Before we return to this question, let's take a look at the second group:

In the ANI HASHEM group (see 19:12,14,16,18) we find a variety of mitzvot bein adam le-chaveiro, the most obvious parallels to the last five DIBROT being:

  • LO TIRTZACH - 'lo ta'amod al dam re'echa' (19:15)
  • LO TIN'AF - the laws of 'shifcha charufa' ( 19:20-22)
  • LO TIGNOV - 'lo tignovu...' (see 19:11)
  • LO TA'ANEH be-re'acha ED SHAKER - 'lo tishav'u bi-shmi la-SHAKER..." (see 19:12).
  • LO TACHMOD - 'lo ta'ashok et re'acha ...' (19:18).

Even though some of these parallels are a bit stronger than others, all of the mitzvot in this section can definitely be categorized according to one of the last five DIBROT.

Let's return now to our question, i.e. we are missing a parallel for the third DIBBUR - LO TISA ET SHEM HASHEM ELOKEICHA LA-SHAV - in the ANI HASHEM ELOKEICHEM group.

Bothered by this question, Chizkuni (based on Vayikra Rabba 24:5) suggests that LO TISA is parallel to 'lo tishav'u bi-shmi la-shaker' (see 19:12).  However, that parallel would 'violate' the pattern that we discerned above, for the parallel should be found within the ANI HASHEM ELOKEICHEM group, i.e. in the first ten pesukim.

Furthermore, based on the context of 19:12 - Lo tishav'u bi-shmi la-SHAKER - and noting the use of the word 'shaker' - its parallel to 'lo taaneh be-re'acha ed SHAKER' (Commandment #9) appears to be much more convincing.  [This also keeps it in the ANI HASHEM group.]

The Missing 'Link'

Let's return to the pattern set by the phrase "ANI HASHEM ELOKEICHEM".  Using the 'process of elimination', the parallel to the third Commandment [LO TISA] must be located somewhere within the mitzvot discussed between 19:5 and 19:10.  However, these pesukim simply discuss primarily the laws of 'pigul', a law that contains no obvious parallel to 'not stating God's Name in vain'.

On the other hand, the pattern that we have seen thus far 'begs' us to look for a connection; so let's give it a try.  To do so, we must first explain the law of pigul.

The korban SHELAMIM is a voluntary offering that can be eaten by the owner; however, its meat must be consumed on that same day or the next (see Vayikra 7:16-18).  Parshat Kedoshim presents this law once again (see 19:5-8), adding the information that the punishment for eating the meat outside of this time frame is 'karet' - being 'cut-off' from the people of Israel (see 19:8!) - one of the most stringent of Biblical punishments.

Interestingly, Chazal [our Sages] interpret this prohibition in an even more stringent manner.  They claim that the primary prohibition is not necessarily eating the korban on the third day, but rather simply THINKING about eating the KORBAN outside of its time frame!  In other words, if at the time of offering this sacrifice, one merely thinks about eating its meat outside of its time frame - the offering is rendered PIGUL - and he who does so will be punished with KARET!  [Even if the meat is never eaten at the wrong time.]

This strange law raises two questions.  First of all, why would someone think of doing so in the first place?  Secondly, let's say he does, why is the punishment for simply 'thinking about it' so severe?  And finally, what is so terrible if one eats from this korban for an extra day?  Is it really better that he should let the meat 'go to waste'?

'Thinking' is Worse than Eating!

To understand the logic behind the law of PIGUL, we must consider that is quite impossible for a single person to consume the meat of an entire animal in a day or two.  Therefore, practically speaking, the Torah's prohibition against eating the meat of a shelamim outside its time frame forces the individual to SHARE the meat of this korban with others!

[Recall as well that the korban must also be consumed within the walls of Yerushalayim.  Therefore, the option of bringing the korban 'home' to share with his family is also precluded.]

Let's say that our assumption is correct that the owner of the KORBAN has no choice other than to share his korban SHELAMIM with other visitors in Yerushalayim.  Consequently, we now have a logical reason for one to think of when he will eat this KORBAN at the time of its offering.  The very THOUGHT of eating a korban outside its time frame implies that the owner does not want to SHARE his korban with others.  In other words, this person offering the korban is being selfish, for he wants to save the meat for himself.

Clearly, being selfish is a bad trait.  But is it so evil that it deserves the punishment of KARET - to be totally cut off from the people of Israel?

A Necessary Balance

This law of PIGUL may contain an extremely important 'mussar' (moral message) concerning the necessary balance between our relationship with God and our fellow man.

Recall that the Korban SHELAMIM is a voluntary offering where one wishes to express his closeness to God, to reaffirm his commitment to the covenant of HAR SINAI (see shiur on Parshat Vayikra).  If at the height of one's spiritual experience, as he stands in front of God offering his KORBAN SHELAMIM, a selfish thought can still enter his mind - i.e. he does not want to share his korban with others - God becomes 'disgusted' with this person, and the korban becomes PIGUL.  A person who has yet to inculcate the basic trait of sharing, has no right to stand in front of the MIZBEACH and offer a voluntary korban to God!

To support this understanding, note how the next pasuk in Parshat Kedoshim contains a law that stems from a similar reason.  The obligation of the farmer to leave over a part of his field for the poor ['peah', 'shichika', and 'leket' / see 19:9-10] teaches the owner not to be so selfish as to keep all of its produce for himself.  Here we find yet another mitzva that requires the sharing of prosperity, and thus supports our interpretation of the underlying reason for the law of pigul.

Pigul & Lo Tisa

If 'sharing' is indeed the underlying reason for PIGUL and PE'A, then the parallel between Parshat Kedoshim and the Ten Commandments, as discussed above, would suggest that these laws should be in some manner related to the third Commandment of LO TISA - not to proclaim God's Name in vain.  To uncover that connection, we must return to our study of the meaning of God's Name in Sefer Breishit, and its connection to the laws of the MIZBEACH and hence to korbanot in general.

Shem Hashem and the Mizbeach

Recall from Parshat Lech Lecha how Avraham Avinu, immediately upon his arrival in Eretz Canaan, built a MIZBEACH and 'calls out in God's Name' in BET EL [lit. the HOUSE of God] (see Breishit 12:8 & 13:4).  As we explained in our shiur on this topic, Avraham's MIZBEACH served as a vehicle enabling him to 'call out in God's Name', or as Ramban on 12:8 explained, teaching mankind concerning their need to recognize God and His Creation.

Later at Har Sinai we find a similar connection between the mizbeach and 'shem Hashem' [God's Name].  Immediately upon the completion of the Ten Commandments, God commands Bnei Yisrael:

"An earthen MIZBEACH you shall make for Me... wherever I CALL OUT MY NAME I will come and bless you" (Shmot 20:21).

[Note that the pesukim in Shemot 20:19-23 can also be understood as parallel to the first three DIBROT, while the remaining DIBROT are parallel to the mitzvot which continue in Parshat Mishpatim (very similar to what happens in Parshat Kedoshim).  According to that parallel, the law of MIZBEACH  is clearly the parallel to LO TISA!  (Read 20:22-23 carefully to verify this.)]

As the above examples show, the concept of 'shem Hashem' relates directly to the MIZBEACH.  In fact, the bet ha-mikdash itself is consistently referred to in Sefer Devarim as 'ha-Makom asher yivchar Hashem leshaken SHMO sham' - the place that God will choose to allow His Name to dwell (see for example Devarim 12:5-12, 16:1-17, and 26:1-2).

As the very purpose of the bet ha-mikdash and the mizbeach is to properly publicize the Name of God, any law relating to the proper offering of a sacrifice could be considered as parallel to LO TISA, especially the laws of pigul.

If so, then our parallel between the DIBROT and opening pesukim Parshat Kedoshim is complete, as pigul becomes the parallel for Lo Tisa in the 'Ani Hashem Elokeichem' section!

This parallel also follows the differentiation between the mitzvot bein adam la-Makom (first five) and the mitzvot bein adam leChaveiro (last five).  It should not surprise us now to find that the Torah's presentation of the of law of PIGUL includes the phrase -'et kodesh HASHEM chillel' - for he has desecrated that what is holy to God (see 19:8).

As the primary concept of the Third Commandment is not to desecrate God's Name, then its parallel could include any law that may cause God's Name (or reputation) to become tainted.  An individual who comes to the bet ha-mikdash to express his special closeness to God - by offering a korban shelamim, yet at the same time thinks selfishly about himself, causes God's Name to be desecrated.

Shnei Luchot HaBrit

One could suggest that this may be the underlying message of the two sections of the Ten Commandments, [i.e the two LUCHOT of BRIT SINAI].  The mitzvot bein adam la-Makom' of the first five DIBROT come 'part and parcel' with the mitzvot bein adam leChavero of the last five DIBROT.

In fact, the law of pigul forms a meaningful transition between these two sections, for it is a law relating to both man & God, and his fellow man.  This necessary blend between one's worship of God and his respect and care for his fellow man, so typical of the other laws of Parshat Kedoshim, should be the most prominent character of the Jewish nation.

When Am Yisrael act in this manner, they become a true AM KADOSH, a holy nation that truly testifies that God is KADOSH and His Name is KADOSH.  By doing so, they facilitate bringing 'shem Hashem' God's Name (and hence His reputation) to mankind.