rashihed.jpg (16002 bytes)

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)


by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

Parashas Yisro (70)

The center-piece of this week's sedra is the giving and receiving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai. In Hebrew they are called "Aseres Hadibbros" The Ten Utterances and not the Ten Commandments because there are more than 10 commandments in the Sinai experience; some count 11, 12 or 13.

Let us look at one of the most obvious of them. Rashi has no comment here but we discuss it for another reason.

Exodus 20:13

You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness.

The meaning here is fairly clear.

See Rashi's comment on "You shall not steal" There he tells us this means stealing a person, taking him captive. The reason the Sages conclude this is because the prohibitions right before and after this prohibition - not to murder and not to commit adultery are both punishable by the death sentence, so too must this "stealing" be a crime deserving the death sentence. That punishment cannot be for stealing money or objects, rather it is for kidnapping.

But I want to examine words in this verse that Rashi does not comment on! On "you shall not murder" (Hebrew: Lo sirtzach") Rashi says nothing. These words "Lo sirtzach" have usually been translated as "You shall not murder." But the most popular Artscroll Stone Chumash has "You shall not kill."

'Kill' is usually the translation of "Horeig" while 'murder' is the English for R'tzechah". All Jewish translations (S.R.Hirsch, Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, Silvermann's Rashi Chumash, Jewish Publication Society; Metzudas Chumash and others) have "murder". The non-Jewish King James' Bible has "kill."

The Rashbam, the Bechore Shor and the Hizkuni (all rishonim) all explain that 'Retzach' means unwarranted killing, the act was intentional but the victim was innocent. "Hariega" means taking a life, whether lawfully or otherwise, but 'retzach' means taking a life unlawfully. There are three situations that allow taking another's life. 1) If the court declares him guilty of a capital crime; 2) in self defense; 3) in defending another person from a potential killer.

We find the word "horeig" used when Cain killed his brother (Genesis 4:8).While this was certainly a case of murder, yet the word "horeig" was used and not "retzach". This can be explained as follows. When Cain killed his brother, this was the first time in history a person had died. Cain may not have realized that a severe blow to a person could kill him. He may have hit his brother, Able, not realizing this would end his life. So it was termed "hereg" in Hebrew, even though it was actually murder.

The Rashbam on the words in our verse tells us they means intentional killing - murder; and he adds that he had a dispute with Christians on this point and they admitted he was right, murder not killing. Apparently the Christians had thought that our verse prohibits killing - making us pacifists. The Rashbam corrected this misunderstanding.

The confusion between murder and killing exists up to our very day. The Israeli war in Gaza last year has caused much criticism of Israel's conduct and very little of the terrorist government in Gaza. We see here an example of Israel being blamed for murder when they killed innocents in midst of the battle. While Hamas's intentional shelling of innocents (in Sederot, for one of many examples) is viewed as killing and not as murder. Not that they care what it says in our Torah, but many gentiles do care, but are misinformed.

So the correct translation is important.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to parsha@shemayisrael.co.il

Jerusalem, Israel