Posted by: Heather | January 21, 2012

More on the 5th and 10th Commandments

I found a beautiful article about coveting that applies to both the 5th and 10th commands. I recommend the entire short article but will excerpt for you here the passage that struck me as relevant to the question of how the commands relate to each other. Here are Yaakov Haber’s thoughts from “Lo Tachmod: Mazel, Destiny, and the Prohibition against Coveting“: 

Every individual’s true sense of identity is ultimately rooted in his soul. The pairing of a specific soul with its unique personality into a specific body which is determined at or soon before conception (see Nidda (16b) and Midrash Tanchuma Parashas P’kudei 3) is decided upon with great precision by HaKadosh Baruch Hu. It is this union which determines major aspects of a person’s life since his body’s genetic makeup will determine many of his physical qualities, some aspects of his personality, and many aspects of his health. The family in which he is born will greatly impact on his education, his training, his early social environment, will further affect his personality development, and often will even largely determine his career and marriage partner. Most of these factors, according the Midrash Tanchuma, are determined by Hashem even before the birth of the child. He arranges that this specific soul should be placed into this particular body and born into this particular family so that all of the above-mentioned aspects of the person’s life should occur with precision to that individual. The one factor which surely remains the domain of the child is whether he will choose to be good or bad, righteous or wicked. (See Rambam Hilchos Teshuva Chapter 5.)

In this view, coveting what belongs to another is wanting to be  that other person in some way. It’s dissatisfaction with the choices God made for us when he created us, right down to the detail of which man and woman he chose to be involved with our conception.  

Now, I may not go as far as the Midrash Tanchuma referenced above to say that so many details are predetermined for us, but I am getting the feeling that “don’t covet” and “honor your father and mother” are about making peace with God, accepting who he made us to be. He loves us. May we rest and rejoice in that love.

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