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Posted on February 13, 2019 (5780) By Yaakov Sterling | Series: | Level:

(לא תחמד בית רעך, לא תחמד אשת רעך, ועבדו ואמתו ושורו וחמרו וכל אשר לרעך” (שמות כ:יד”

“You shall not covet your fellow’s house. You shall not covet your fellow’s wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, nor anything that belongs to your fellow.” (Shemos 20:14)

The Sifsei Cohen written by Rebbe Shabsai Cohen comments that, “This Tenth Commandment includes all other commandments,” and at length substantiates his assumption.

It is certainly worthwhile to copy here all that HaKesav VeHaKabalah written by Rebbe Yaakov Tzvi of Klenburg writes about this commandment prohibiting coveting: “`You shall not covet’–many ask how is it at all possible for a human being not to covet something beautiful, something appealing to him. A person’s natural tendency is to crave something he wants for himself. He does not willingly choose to desire something; this craving is `built in,’ involuntary and spontaneous whenever a person can possibly attain it. The Ibn Ezra raises this question and presents a mashal (parable) elucidating that a person does not covet something he realizes he cannot possibly have as his own or was always aware of its being prohibited for him.

“The Sefer HaBris of HaRav Pinchas Eliyahu of Vilna asks, `When Hashem commands us to love Him, why does He write in the Torah, `And you shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart‘?[1]  Could not the phrase `all your heart’ have been omitted? What do these words come to add and clarify for us?

“`All your heart’ means that your entire heart must be full of love for Hashem without any additional love. No love for worldly desires should abide in a Jew’s heart. Such an intermixture of desires demonstrates not loving Hashem with a whole heart. Such a heart is divided between love of Hashem and love of worldly desires.

“How then does one successfully fulfill this mitzvah of loving Hashem with `all your heart?’

“When one’s nefesh (soul) longs for pleasure from Hashem, when with copious love it persistently yearns to cling to Him, when it craves perceiving pleasantness of Hashem, when it wants to savor the King’s essence, when it wishes to relish in the brilliance of His honor, when through all this thirsting for Hashem he finds plentiful simchah (joy), the result is his heart forever and fully remembering Hashem’s holiness. This inspiring Jew seeks to cling to Him, and his heart is tied to Him with tenacious bonds of love. He fulfills `in all your heart’ since his heart overflows with ahavas Hashem (love of G-d).

“This true ohev Hashem, one who loves G-d, cannot covet anything pleasurable from this world.  Being that coveting takes place in the heart and not in another organ, and this person’s entire heart is always full of ahavas Hashem, love of G-d, he lacks place in his heart to desire something else. He is likened to an overflowing glass to which nothing can be added.

“A person can transgress `You shall not covet’ when he does not absolutely fulfill the positive mitzvah of `And you shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart.’  Loving Him is insufficient. If, in addition, he loves worldly pleasures and delights, he is not fulfilling `with all your heart.’ His heart craves material pleasures that he encounters. Although he does not covet them consciously since he realizes doing so is a transgression of Hashem’s Torah, a person’s heart covets both subconsciously and against his predetermined will. It is impossible for love of Hashem and love of corporeal pleasures to coexist and colligate peaceably. Each love repels the other and banishes it. Someone who fulfills, `And you shall love Hashem, your G-d,’ cannot harbor both loves since his heart is joyously occupied with love of Hashem. Furthermore, the person bound with ties of love to Hashem disregards and despises all transient pleasures of this world. He does not lust for women, and only desires Hashem’s dwelling with him. His heart has withdrawn from all physical attractions. He does not covet them since they disgust his soul, and only takes pleasure from the Almighty. This saintly Jew clings to Him since the soul is naturally attracted to what is preferred and rejects what is undesirable.

“The above is baffling! How can a mortal, a mere flesh and blood, be capable of loving Hashem with his whole heart without diverting any of his love to anything else? Furthermore, the Torah writes, `You shall love your fellow as yourself’[2]  and Rebbe Akiva said that this is the fundamental rule of the Torah.[3] The Torah itself is instructing us to love others! Does not the Torah write that Yitzchak Avinu and Yaakov Avinu loved their wives? Surely Hashem wants a married couple to love each other and their children and their parents. The Talmud[4]  teaches us, “Concerning a man who loves his wife as himself, who honors her more than himself, who guides his sons and daughters in the right path and arranges for them to be married near the period of their maturity, is written, `And you shall know that Your tent is in peace.'[5]  Concerning him who loves his neighbors, who befriends his relatives, marries his sister’s daughter, and lends a sela to a poor man in the hour of his need, is written, `Then shall you call, and Hashem will answer; you shall cry and He will say: ‘Here I am.'”[6]  Chazal praise a man for loving his wife and neighbors. How then can this limit his ahavah for the Almighty?”

After studying the commentary of HaKsav VeHaKabalah on the verse commanding us to love our fellow man, my difficulty became compounded. He writes the following: “`You shall love your fellow as yourself’–all types of goodness and chesed that a person, let us call him Reuven, agrees to receive and resolves as being proper to receive from his friend, let us call him Shimon, he must also in return do for that person. Friendship is a reciprocal relationship. Reuven evaluates that he would want Shimon to (1) Wholeheartedly, not insincerely, love him. (2) Always honor him, as Chazal[7]  teach us, `Another person’s honor should be as the reverence you owe to your Rav.’ (3) Always concern himself with his welfare, as fitting good friends. (4) Participate in his sorrow. (5) Greet him cordially when he visits his house. (6) Always judge him favorably. (7) Willingly offer to help him when that help does not require excessive bother, and take care of some chore for him. (8) Gladly assist him with a small amount of money when he desperately needs a loan or gift, and lend him an insignificant item as is common among charitable people. (9) Not act condescendingly toward him. Reuven believes his friend Shimon should show his friendship in many other similar ways. Revuen will, however, definitely not agree that Shimon, although he loves Reuven, gives him all of his money and possessions. Reuven does want that from Shimon and refuses to accept that. Human intelligence does not tolerate such behavior and common sense does not expect it. All of the numerous ways of how Reuven expects Shimon to behave with him, Reuven himself is expected to behave with Shimon. By doing so Reuven is ultimately fulfilling his obligation of friendship toward Shimon. Certainly Reuven does not need to give Shimon all of his financial resources, his entire house with all its rooms and floors, just because he is his beloved friend. Also Reuven does not expect that from Shimon. `You shall love your fellow as yourself’–the love for your fellow in all ways should be `as yourself’ in the same way that you expect love from your friend.”

The lengthy list of ways written by the HaKsav VeHaKabalah how a friend needs to show his love and the practical delimitation of such love is doubtless evidence to our need of human companionship beyond loving Hashem.

Perhaps we can reconcile our uncertainties through clarifying that we are referring to two different types of love. Having in mind love of Hashem with all one’s heart, soul and might refers to concentrating on Hashem’s having created the world ex nihilo, something out of nothing, and how He continues constantly bestowing upon us and the whole world our material and spiritual existence. We must tangibly realize this and be cognizant that Hashem gives us all the tools necessary to serve Him fully and live joyously in this world. We must build up a profound and steadfast love for Him, and consequently we will have no reason to covet anything.

The second type of love is demonstrated toward others and is a love based upon human relationships. It includes sterling character traits and virtuous behavior toward others. This behavior allows us to live peacefully with others and especially with those closest to us, such as our family members. Such proper behavior toward others needs to be cultivated not less and even more than building up our internal love toward the Creator. Hashem is benevolent and constantly benefits us, but not always people act toward us as we would like or expect. Accordingly, loving other people involves much more effort and many more challenges.

The two types of love are inseparably connected – the love we feel for our fellow man is an inseparable part of our love for Hashem.  Hashem, Who created everything that exists, wants us to love our fellow man, and the creation itself is in essence an expression of Hashem’s will. When we feel pure love and holiness toward His creations, we are actually showing our love to Hashem.

Nevertheless the Jewish law[8]  is, “In a beis knesses (synagogue) or beis medrash (house of study) it is forbidden to kiss one’s small children since it is improper to display there any other love except that of love towards Hashem.” We can infer from this that, although love of Hashem is one of the “constant” Miztvot, that we are commanded to carry out at all times, one of the main opportunities for direct implementation of loving Hashem with one’s entire heart is at the place of prayer and during Torah study. It therefore comes as no surprise that in our place of worship we express our love for Hashem through external actions such as kissing the Torah scroll, standing, bowing and being extra careful with our speech and dress. During Torah study, we are instructed to keep our minds fully-focused on the task at hand and fully appreciate the invaluable gift of Torah that we received as a gift from the Almighty.


[1] Devarim 6:5

[2] Vayikra 19:18

[3] See Rashi

[4] Yevamos 62b

[5] Iyov 5:24

[6] Yeshaya 58:9

[7] Avos 4:12

[8] Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 13:5