Thou Shalt Not Murder

Thou Shalt Not Murder
Is this injunction limited to the actual act of terminating a human life? or is this commandment a heading for a general concept?

The nation to whom this commandment was addressed understands that both are true. There is one specific action that is directly addressed in this commandment, and there is also an additional layer of meaning that lies beneath the surface. And we do not need to wander far to find this additional meaning.

The commandments are a reflection of the conscience that we as human beings are blessed with and by using this understanding we can easily see a much broader application to this commandment, an application that goes far beyond restraining ourselves from murder.
If murder is terrible, then wouldn’t it follow that saving a life is wonderful? And why stop at “saving” a life which is threatened with death? Supporting life, cultivating life, helping life flourish, develop and grow are all actions that stand in opposition to murder. And cultivating life includes education, emotional support, financial help and so much more.

Violating this commandment most directly would involve a brutal act of murder. But shouldn’t carelessness that might lead to other people’s death, not be an extension of this commandment? Murder would mean snuffing out the complete continuation of someone’s life, but limiting someone’s life is also a branch of this commandment. There are so many ways of harming people that fall short of actual murder but point in the same direction of destroying other people.

There is physical harm which would involve wounding the other person. There is the example of limiting a person’s freedom by locking them up. There is harming other people by affecting their livelihood or by ruining their social standing. And then there is emotional harm. There are so many things we can do, or words we can say that hurt other people.

But let me go back to the act of murder itself. This act is not limited to the person that actually pulled the trigger or the one that swung the knife. What kind of respect for human life was this murderer exposed to? What kind of respect for law and order did this murderer see in the hearts of his fellow citizens?

Distancing ourselves from murder means cultivating and developing a respect for the nobility of man and sharing that respect with the way we speak, the way we act and the way we live our lives. Distancing ourselves from murder involves building a respect toward the concept of justice and toward those who try to maintain law and order in our society.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to learn and there is so much that we can yet grow.

The commandment: “Thou Shalt Not Murder” is not just an arrow pointing to one particular action. It is an arrow that should guide us throughout our journey of life; an arrow that points away from cruelty and evil and towards goodness and love.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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5 Responses to Thou Shalt Not Murder

  1. Jim says:

    Rabbi,

    I suspect that if one kept before his mind the philosophy you have outlined here, particularly in regard to respect for the human being, it would change his life in many ways. And, if society at large took the underlying message behind the precept not to murder, the world would look much different, much better. Thank you.

    Jim

  2. Dina says:

    Beautiful!

  3. Amen Amen! I cautiously introduce here the N.T. verse of Pharisee Paul “The letter kills but the spirit gives life”(2Cor. 3:6)
    Rabbi, if we stick to the letter (M.U.R.D.E.R. termination of someone’s breath), then we would feel no guilty of harming or hurting or cursing someone else because we preserved their breath. It will give excuses for their evil acts, thus society will be full of innocent crimes that kills body, emotion, and mind but preserves breath.
    Thank you for your illuminating the spirit of the Law!

    • Gean Guk Jeon It is important to remember that the law is spirit beyond letter but it is also important to remember that there is a letter to the law. Someone who does not differentiate between spirit and letter will judge people (including him/herself) more harshly and teh boundaries between good and evil get blurred. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

      • “The Law is spirit beyond letter but also there is a letter to the Law. Someone who does not differentiate between spirit and letter will JUDGE people (including him/herself) more harshly and the boundaries between good and evil get blurred.”

        Halleluyah!! Eureka!! This is exactly what is happening in many of Korean churches these days. Our theology have despised the letter of the Law, thus we have not known the first- literal meaning of the Law. So we have seen the internal conflicts where people judge harshly each other and boundaries get blurred producing so many powerful heretics.

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