Shemot (Exodus): Yitro > Ch 20


  • They arrive in the 3rd month after departure from Egypt. G-d spoke these words:

    1. I am the Lord, your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall not have the gods of others in My presence.

    2. You shall not make for yourself a graven image or any likeness which is in the heavens above, which is on the earth below, or which is in the water beneath the earth. You shall neither prostrate yourself before them nor worship them, for I, the Lord, your God, am a zealous God, Who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons, upon the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me, and [I] perform loving kindness to thousands [of generations], to those who love Me and to those who keep My commandments.

    3. You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain, for the Lord will not hold blameless anyone who takes His name in vain.

    4. Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it. Six days may you work and perform all your labor, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord, your God; you shall perform no labor, neither you, your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, your beast, nor your stranger who is in your cities. For [in] six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it.

    5. Honor your father and your mother, in order that your days be lengthened on the land that the Lord, your God, is giving you.

    6. You shall not murder.

    7. You shall not commit adultery.

    8. You shall not steal.

    9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

    10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or whatever belongs to your neighbor.

G-d tells Moses how to build altars to Him

  • And all the people saw the voices and the torches, the sound of the shofar, and the smoking mountain, and the people saw and trembled; so they stood from afar. They said to Moses, "You speak with us, and we will hear, but let G-d not speak with us lest we die." But Moses said to the people, "Fear not, for G-d has come in order to exalt you, and in order that His awe shall be upon your faces, so that you shall not sin." The people remained far off, but Moses drew near to the opaque darkness, where G-d was.
  • G-d told Moses to tell the children of Israel:

    You have seen that from the heavens I have spoken with you.

    You shall not make [images of anything that is] with Me. Gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.

    An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall slaughter beside it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your cattle.

    Wherever I allow My name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you.

    And when you make for Me an altar of stones, you shall not build them of hewn stones, lest you wield your sword upon it and desecrate it.

    And you shall not ascend with steps upon My altar, so that your nakedness shall not be exposed upon it.'

Rashi Commentary

  • and Moses took the words of the people back… on the next day, which was the third day, for he ascended early in the morning (Shab. 86a).
  • You shall not take the name of the Lord, your G-d, in vain You shall not swear in vain by the name of the Lord, your G-d. — [Onkelos]לַֹשָוְא -[This word appears twice in this verse.] (The second [mention ofלַֹשָוְא is an expression of falsehood, as the Targum [Onkelos] renders:לְֹשִיקְרָא, as it says [in Shavuos 21a]: "What constitutes a vain oath? If one swears contrary to what is known, [for example, saying] about a stone pillar that it is [made of] gold. (The first [mention of לַֹשָוְא is an expression of vanity, as the Targum [Onkelos] renders: [לְמַגָּנָא].) This [refers to] one who swears for no reason and in vain, [for example making an oath] concerning [a pillar] of wood, [saying] that it is wood, and concerning [a pillar] of stone, [saying] that it is stone. — [from Shevuoth 29a, Mechilta]
  • You shall not steal The text refers to kidnapping. [The verse] “You shall not steal” (Lev. 19:11) refers to stealing money. Or perhaps this one [verse] refers only to stealing money and the one written further (in Lev.) refers to kidnapping? You must admit that [the meaning of] a statement is derived from its context. Just as [the former two commandments] “You shall not murder” [and] “You shall not commit adultery” refer to capital sins, “You shall not steal” also refers to a capital sin [i.e., a sin punishable by death]. — [from Sanh. 86a]
  • to exalt נַסוֹת, an expression of exaltation and greatness, similar to “lift up a banner (נֵס)” (Isa. 62:10); “will I raise My standard (נִסִי)” (Isa. 49:22); “and like a flagpole (וְכַנֵּס) on a hill” (Isa. 30:17), which is upright. [Thus all these words signify “raising up.”]
  • Wherever I allow My name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you Heb. אַזְכִּיר, lit., I will mention. [This should apparently read ךְתַּזְכִּיר, you will mention. Therefore, Rashi explains that it means: whenever] I will permit you to mention My Explicit Name, there I will come to you and bless you. I will cause My Shechinah to rest upon you. From here you learn that permission was given to mention the Explicit Name only in the place to which the Shechinah comes, and that is in the Temple in Jerusalem. There permission was given to the priests to mention the Explicit Name when they raise their hands to bless the people. — [from Mechilta, Sifrei, Num. 6:23, Sotah 38a]
  • hewn stones Heb. גָזִית, an expression of shearing (גְּזִיזָה), [meaning] that [the stone-cutter] hews them and cuts them (וַּמְסַךְתְּתָן) with iron [tools].

Research & Analysis
  • Commandments on the first tablet are between humans and G-d. Commandments on the second tablet concern relationship with other humans.
  • Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it Maintaining a relationship with G-d requires effort on our part. All too often we are so immersed in our daily routine that we forget that in actuality it is our connection with G-d which matters most. Therefore, G-d commanded us to allocate one day every week for "relationship maintenance." This is the Sabbath, a day to focus on the real priorities in life, and draw inspiration for the following week.