Holiness – Ten Commandments – Kedoshim


The Ten Commandments are universally known by their fundamental importance and awe-inspiring manner of revelation. This revelation was witnessed by all of the Israelites and therefore forms the cornerstone of Judaism. The Torah records two versions of this revelation (Exodus 20:1-14 and Deuteronomy 5:6-18). This article will focus on the verses in Exodus and show the linkage to verses in Parshat Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1 – 20:27).

The author analyzed the Ten Commandments through different articles on this web site, “Ten Commandments – Halacha (Law) and Ten Commandments Aggadah (Homilies)” This article will examine these commandments from the point of view of holiness in daily life based upon the Midrash (Leviticus Rabbah 24:5 and Midrash Tanchuma (Kedoshim 3), Zohar (3:84b), and associated commentaries.

Parshat Kedoshim

This portion of the Torah begins with Hashem saying to Moses (Leviticus 19:2), “Speak to the entire congregation of Israel, and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, Hashem, am holy (קדוש).” The entire congregation should strive for holiness independent of their station in life. Rashi (ibid.) quoting the Sifra notes that Moses said this section of the Torah to the entire congregation (ישראל בני עדת כל) at one time because the majority of the Torah laws are contained here, either directly or by allusion. Included in these laws are references to the 10 Commandments which will be explained below. Hence the entire congregation was present here as they were at the revelation at Sinai.         

Strive for Holiness

The reader may ask, “How can Hashem expect physical man to be holy just because Hashem is holy?” There are many answers to this question and for the sake of brevity the author will discuss the following points:

  • Will of Hashem.
  • Marriage at Sinai.
  • Divine assistance.
  • Fulfillment of Mitzvoth.

Will of Hashem

It is the will of Hashem that man should control his physical desires in consonance with the laws of the Torah (i.e. 7 Noahide laws for gentiles and the 613 for the Israelites). The Talmud (Chagigah 16a) states that Hashem created man as a hybrid between the animal and angelic worlds with desires leading him in both of these directions.

Marriage at Sinai

There are several sources in the Talmud and Midrash that describe the covenant at Sinai as a spiritual marriage between Hashem as the groom and the Israelites as the bride. Certainly this analogy is not literal; rather it reflects the special love and devotion between Hashem and the Israelites. Hence the quest for holiness originates from these “wedding vows”. For the sake of brevity the author will list a few of these sources:

  • Mechilta (Exodus 19:17).
  • Midrash Rabbah (Numbers 9:45 and 12:4).
  • Midrash Tanchuma (Kedoshim 2).
  • Talmud (Shabbat 88b).


The Torah states (Exodus 19:17), “Moses brought the people out from the camp toward G-d (to receive the Torah).” Rashi quoting the Mechilta says,” The Shechinah went to meet the Israelites as a groom meets his bride.”

Midrash Rabbah

Similarly the Midrash (Numbers Rabbah 9:45) views the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai as a marriage between Hashem and the Israelites. The Midrash further links this marriage to verses in the Torah (viz. Exodus 19:10 and Leviticus 19:2). In the former verse Hashem tells Moses to prepare the Israelites for giving of the Torah. The Hebrew word for preparation in this verse is וקדשתם which means to sanctify. In turn the Midrash connects this verse to the latter verse where Hashem tells Moses to exhort the Israelites to be holy תהיו קדשים. The commentators on this Midrash note that the Talmudic word for marriage is קידושין which explains the connection between the Ten Commandments, marriage, and exhortation to be holy.   

Midrash Tanchuma

The Midrash (ibid.) views the giving of the Torah as a spiritual marriage between Hashem as the king and the Israelites as his queen. Since Hashem (the king) is holy it is befitting that the Israelites (queen) also be holy for a marriage of compatibility as the verse states (Exodus 19:6), “You (the Israelites) shall be to Me (Hashem) a kingdom of princes and a holy (קדוש) nation.”        


The Talmud (ibid.) comments on the sin of the Golden Calf as follows, “Insolent is the bride (Israelites) who is promiscuous (worshipping idols) under her wedding canopy (at Sinai).

Nevertheless, it is apparent from the verse (Song of Songs 1:12) that the affection of the Holy One, Blessed be He, is still upon us, as it is written “my spikenard gave off its fragrance,” and the verse did not write it reeks.”

Divine Assistance

The Talmud (Yoma 39a) quotes Leviticus 11:44, “You (Israelites) shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, because I (Hashem) am holy”, to declare that Hashem assists those who strive for holiness.  Specifically the Talmud says, “One who sanctifies himself a little (i.e. makes an effort) they (in heaven) sanctify him greatly (i.e. more than his effort). If a person sanctifies himself below (in this world) they sanctify him above (through heavenly blessings and thoughts). A similar verse appears in Parshat Kedoshim (Leviticus 20:7), “You (Israelites) shall sanctify yourselves and become holy (through divine assistance), for I am Hashem (who promises this assistance).”

Fulfillment of Mitzvoth

The Sefer HaChinukh explains in several places that man is influenced by his actions. Hence by fulfilling the mitzvoth one becomes attuned to striving for holiness. An allusion to this idea may be found in the Shema which contains 10 mitzvoth, as numerated by the Sefer HaChinukh, proving a numerical link to the 10 Commandments. In addition the gematria of Shema (שמע -410) is the same as holy (קדוש – 410) connecting the mitzvoth to holiness.

Appendix 1 provides additional word associations related to holiness.  

Reference to 10 Commandments

The following sources find a reference to each of the each of the Ten Commandments in Parshat Kedoshim:

  • Leviticus Rabbah 24:5.
  • Midrash Tanchuma (Kedoshim 5).
  • Zohar 3:84b.

In some cases the references in this parsha do not reflect the literal meaning of the verses and also do not follow the order of its text. Therefore in the opinion of the author this explains why this exposition is not found in the Babylonian Talmud. Nevertheless this exposition is an example of how the Torah may be interpreted in many ways in addition to its literal meaning.

The following table lists the number of the commandment, its theme, verse(s) in Exodus chapter 20, and associated verse in Leviticus based upon Leviticus Rabbah. The author will point out where a different verse is cited by Midrash Tanchuma (ibid.) or the Zohar (ibid.). The paragraphs below will discuss each of these commandments and explain the difference in verses between those of Exodus and Leviticus in terms of Halacha and especially where the verse in Leviticus suggests a higher level of holiness.      

NumberThemeVerse (Exodus)Verse (Leviticus)
1Belief in Hashem219:2
2Prohibition of Idolatry3-519:4
3Prohibition of Vain Oath719:12
4Observe Sabbath8 and 1019:3
5Honour Parents1219:3
6Prohibition of Murder1319:16
7Prohibition of Adultery1320:10
8Prohibition of Kidnapping1319:11
9Prohibition of Bearing False Witness1319:16
10Prohibition of Coveting1419:18

The Zohar (ibid.) points out that the Ten Commandments in Exodus and in Deuteronomy (5:6-18) are written in singular form. By contrast many of the above verses in Leviticus are written in plural. The Zohar (ibid.) explains that at the giving of the Torah the Israelites were united to hear Hashem’s message as Rashi explains based upon the Mechilta (Exodus 19:2). Although the verse, when translated into English, says that the Israelites encamped at Mount Sinai the verb in Hebrew is conjugated in the singular (ויחן). By contrast after the sin of the Golden Calf there was division amongst the Israelites caused by the awakened evil inclination. The author will explain why some of the related verses in Leviticus are written in singular form.        

Commandment 1 – Belief in Hashem

The Torah commands the Israelites to believe in Hashem as the verse states (Exodus 20:2), “I am (אנכי), Hashem your G-d … Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt.” The corresponding verse in Leviticus is 19:2, “You shall be holy, for I, Hashem, am holy (קדוש).” The similar expression of the existence of Hashem links the two verses, “I, Hashem your G-d” and “I Hashem your G-d is holy.” In addition to belief in Hashem this latter verse exhorts the Israelites to strive for holiness.

Commandment 2 –Prohibition of Idolatry

The Torah commands the Israelites to believe in one deity (Exodus 20:3), “You shall not accept (i.e. believe) in the gods of others. In addition the Torah prohibits the making of idolatrous images (ibid. 20:4), “You shall not make for yourself a graven image. “ In Leviticus 19:4 the Torah states, “You (plural) shall not turn to idols, nor shall you (plural) make molten deities (even) for yourselves.”

On the surface, the latter verse refers to the prohibition of idolatry as mentioned above (i.e. Exodus 20:3-4). However the Sefer HaChinukh (Mitzvah #213), based upon the Talmud Shabbat 149a, prohibits even “turning to idols” whether in thought, speech, or sight lest a person come to worship them. In addition the Sefer HaChinukh (Mitzvah #214), based upon the Sifra on this verse, explains that the clause, “Nor shall you make molten deities for yourselves” is a prohibition of making molten images for another person, even a gentile. Hence an Israelite who makes an idolatrous image for himself violates 2 prohibitions, making idols for oneself (Mitzvah #27 – Exodus 20:4) and making them for others (Mitzvah #214 – Leviticus 19:4). The apparent repetition in Leviticus stresses an increased level of holiness to avoid idolatry in thought, speech, or sight.    

From a textual viewpoint, the Midrash Rabbah quotes the latter clause of molten deities (Leviticus 19:4) to link to the Ten Commandments. By contrast the Midrash Tanchuma (ibid.) quotes the former clause concerning idols. The Zohar (ibid.) quotes both clauses to relate to Exodus 20:3 and 20:4 respectively.  

Commandment 3 – Prohibition of Vain Oath

In the Ten Commandments the Torah states (Exodus 20:7), “You shall not take the name of Hashem, your G-d, in vain.” In Leviticus 19:12 the Torah says, “You (plural) shall not swear falsely by My Name, thereby desecrating the Name of your G-d.” Although these two verses appear to be identical, there are subtle differences between the verses as follows:

  • Type of oath – vain vs. false.
  • Name of Hashem.

Type of Oath

The former verse refers to a vain oath while the latter verse refers to a false oath. Maimonides in the Laws of Oaths (Chapter 1), based upon the Talmud Shevuot, explains the difference between these types of oaths.

Vain Oath – Exodus 20:7

Maimonides (ibid.) classifies vain oaths as:

  1. Concerning a known matter that is not true (e.g. a marble pillar was gold) (ibid. 1:4).
  2. Concerning a known matter that is true (e.g. a marble pillar is a marble pillar) (ibid 1:5).
  3. To nullify a mitzvah (e.g. not to don tefillin). (ibid.1:6). 
  4. Concerning a matter that one is unable to perform (e.g. to not sleep for 3 consecutive days and nights) (ibid. 1:7).

In each of these cases the oath was unnecessary and therefore deemed vain. In the first two cases the matter is clearly known to anyone of sound mind. In the third case a person is attempting to violate Torah law. In the last case the person cannot humanly fulfill the oath.   

False oath – Leviticus 19:12

A false oath (ibid. 1:2) involves violating an oath connected with an action which is possible to perform (e.g. eating on a given day). This type of oath is further divided into 4 categories, 2 involving the past and 2 the future (ibid. 1:1). For example, if one took an oath not to eat (i.e. fast that day) and then ate he has violated his oath (ibid. 1:3). Similarly if one took an oath to eat on that day and then fasted he violated his oath (ibid.). These oaths are an example about the future. The same applies about an oath concerning the past (i.e. he ate or did not eat on a previous day).

Name of Hashem

Rashi (quoting the Sifra on the latter verse) explains that the prohibition in Exodus applies to an oath using one of the holy names of G-d (e.g. Tetragrammaton). By contrast the prohibition in Leviticus applies to an oath using one of the adjectives of Hashem (e.g. the merciful one or the compassionate one). Hence one should not make a vain oath with the name or implied name of Hashem which fits with striving for holiness to avoid misusing the name of Hashem in different forms.  

Commandment 4 – Observe Sabbath

In Exodus the Torah describes the Sabbath as follows:

Exodus 20:8-10 – “Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it. Six days shall you work and accomplish your tasks (literally work). (Since) the seventh day is the Sabbath to Hashem, you shall do not any work, (meaning) – you, your son, daughter, slave, maidservant, animal, and convert within your gates.”

The Talmud (e.g. Berachot 20b) identifies remembrance and prohibition of work as two distinct mitzvoth:

  • Remember (זכור) – Positive commandment to verbally mention the Sabbath at its entrance either in prayer or the Kiddush ceremony at the Sabbath meal.
  • Prohibition of Work (שמור) – Prohibition of work as indicated by the verse (Deuteronomy 5:12), “Safeguard the Sabbath to sanctify it.”

In regard to the Sabbath the Torah states Leviticus 19:3, “You shall observe My Sabbaths.” Since the Torah has elsewhere mentioned the requirement to observe the Sabbath, the reader may ask, “What does this verse come to add?” The answer lies in the next commandment to honour parents.

Commandment 5 – Honour Parents

In Exodus 20:12 the Torah commands a person to honour his parents. By contrast in Leviticus 19:3 the Torah requires that a person revere his parents. The verses follow:

“Honour your father and mother (Exodus 20:12).”

“Every man shall revere his mother and father (Leviticus 19:3).”

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 240) based upon Talmud Kiddushin 31b defines these commandments as follows:

A son or daughter honours a parent by seeing that they are fed, clothed, and taken out, all with a pleasant disposition (ibid. 240:4). The expenses are paid by the parents (ibid. 240:5). If the parents do not have the means, then the son or daughter must cover the expenses (ibid.). 

A son or daughter reveres their parents by not sitting in their designated place, not contradicting their words, and not calling them by their first name (ibid. 240:2).

In summary, the mitzvah of honouring one’s parents involves a positive action to show respect. By contrast the mitzvah of revering parents means that one refrains from acting in a manner that detracts from their status (Aruch Hashulchan Yorah Deah 240:8).

Hence the two mitzvoth complement each other. The Talmud (Kiddushin 30b-31a) notes that the order of the father and mother is reversed between the verses in Exodus and Leviticus. When honouring parents the Torah mentions the father before the mother. By contrast when revering parents the Torah mentions the mother before the father. The Talmud explains that the Torah aims to overcome conventional behaviour. Since a child naturally respects the mother, because she deals kindly with him, the Torah mentions the father first in reference to honour. By contrast a child naturally reveres his father because he deals strictly with him (either teaching him Torah or preparing him for a trade).  Hence the Torah mentions the mother first with respect to reverence.         

The reader may ask, “Why is the order in the Ten Commandments different than that of the verse in Leviticus?” In the former case the command of honouring parents follows the command about Sabbath. However in the latter case the order is reversed. The Talmud (Yevamot 5b) explains that when a parent asks their child to violate a law of the Torah to serve them (e.g. working on the Sabbath) the child is not permitted to follow their instruction. The Talmud (ibid.) explains that both the parents and their children are obligated to follow Hashem’s laws. Hence the verse in Leviticus 19:3 is interpreted as, “Every man shall revere his father and mother (but must) observe the Sabbath.” The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 240:15) extends this principle to all laws of the Torah and rabbinic ordinances. Hence holiness, in this case, means that the laws of Hashem override the wishes of parents.  

Commandment 6 – Prohibition of Murder

Verse 20:13 – “You shall not murder.”

Some translate this verse as, “You shall not kill”, which would imply that no one can take the life of another. However there a number of verses in the Torah that justify taking human life as explained in detail in the article “Ten Commandments – Halacha” on this web site and listed as follows:

  • War
  • Capital punishment
  • Self-defense

The corresponding verse in Leviticus (19:16) refers to preventing loss of life, “You shall not stand idly by the shedding of your fellow’s blood.” Hence this verse refers to a sin of omission while the verse in Exodus refers to a sin of commission. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 73a) explains that one should not stand idly when someone’s life is in danger (e.g. drowning or attacked by robbers). The codifiers of Halacha (e.g. Shulchan Aruch Chosen Mishpat Sema 426:2) ponder the requirement to risk one’s life to save another (e.g. someone drowning in stormy waters) and conclude that it depends on the degree of risk to the rescuer. In any event one is required to contact the appropriate authorities (e.g. police or coast guard) to save a life in danger.

In the opinion of the author this verse is in singular to emphasize that each person should try to help and not rely on the effort of others consistent with the theme of this section of the Torah, strive for holiness by helping others.      

Commandment 7 – Prohibition of Adultery

The Torah (Exodus 20:13) forbids adultery, “You shall not commit adultery” without specifying the punishment for this transgression. Therefore the Torah (Leviticus 20:10) mentions the punishment as follows, “A man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, meaning the wife of his fellow, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”


In addition to the punishment, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 52b) interprets this verse for the following cases:

  • A minor
  • Intermarriage


Since the verse specifies a man, the Talmud (ibid.) rules that a minor (less than 13 years old) who commits adultery is not liable for punishment. However a male of 9 years old or more is considered biologically mature with respect to relations with a woman. Therefore if this male would have an affair with an adult married woman she would be liable for capital punishment, after due legal process, but the minor is exempt (Maimonides Laws of Forbidden Relations 1:13). As explained in an article on this web site “Ten Commandments – Halacha”, due process includes a trial before a Sanhedrin of 23 judges, 2 or more witnesses to the crime, and 2 or more witnesses who warned the woman of the consequences of willful transgression.

Since the verse mentions “another man’s wife”, marriage by a male under 13 years old is not considered a marriage by Halacha. Hence an adult male who would have relations with this child’s “wife” would not be subject to the prohibition of adultery even though the act is promiscuous.


The Talmud (ibid.) deduces that adultery would not apply to an Israelite where one spouse is a gentile (i.e. intermarriage) because the verse specifies the “wife of his fellow”. The act is nevertheless promiscuous.


In addition to the legal ramifications of this verse, both the Midrash and Zohar link this verse in Leviticus to the one of the Ten Commandments because of the same prohibition of adultery. This link also emphasizes the enormity of this sin because the verse in Leviticus specifies capital punishment for this transgression in keeping with the ideal of holiness in this section of the Torah.  This verse is in singular by the nature of the infraction.      

Commandment 8 – Prohibition of Kidnapping

Exodus 20:13, “You (singular) shall not steal.”

Leviticus 19:11, “You (plural) shall not steal, deny falsely, nor lie one to another.”

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 86a) explains that the former verse refers to kidnapping while the latter verse refers to theft of property. The Talmud comes to this conclusion by invoking the 12th principle of Rabbi Yishmael’s 13 principles of expounding the Torah, namely a matter elucidated from its context or from a following passage. Since the Torah, in Exodus, places the prohibition of theft after the prohibitions of murder and adultery, which are capital offenses, the prohibition of theft (i.e. kidnapping) must also a capital offense. In fact the Torah (Exodus 21:16) specifies capital punishment for kidnapping, “One who kidnaps a man and sells him … shall be surely be put to death (through a trial).”

The verse in Leviticus refers to theft of property because the following verse (ibid. 19:13), “You shall not cheat your fellow nor rob him” also speaks of unlawful possession. In addition the verse in Leviticus is stated in plural implying that a thief often operates in conjunction with a buyer to sell his stolen goods. Although the offence of kidnapping also involves a buyer it is more likely that there are more buyers for stolen goods than for kidnapping.

Rashi quoting the Sifra explains the sequence of events this verse in that one sin leads to another (Avot 4:2). First a person may rob, then he will deny the theft, and eventually lie. Hence the Torah exhorts the Israelites to keep away from these unsavoury practices which are a barrier to holiness.    

Commandment 9 – Prohibition of Bearing False Witness

Exodus 20:13 – “You shall not bear false witness against your fellow.”

Leviticus 19:16 – “You (singular) shall not be a gossipmonger among your people.”

In the former verse the Torah states the prohibition of bearing false witness. This prohibition involves a serious offence because a Torah court relies on the testimony of 2 or more eye witnesses to obtain a conviction. The court does not use circumstantial evidence, accusation of a victim, or a confession of the offender to obtain a guilty verdict. Hence this verse relates to a legal setting.

By contrast the latter verse, quoted by the Midrash, is a moral counterpart to this prohibition continuing the theme of holiness in daily life. By gossiping one ruins the reputation of a person in the court of public opinion. This latter verse is in singular form to emphasize the harm that even one person can cause. Maimonides in the Laws of Proper Conduct – Deot Chapter 7 elaborates on the prohibition of gossip and derogatory speech:

Law 1 – “Even though this transgression is not punishable by lashes, it is a severe offense and can cause death to people. Therefore the Torah places the prohibition of not standing by the shedding of your fellow’s blood in the same verse as the prohibition of gossip.”

Law 2 – “A gossiper collects information and then goes from person to person, saying: This is what someone or this is what I heard about somebody. Even though the statements are true they are harmful. A more severe form of this prohibition involves relating deprecating facts about a colleague, even if true.” (Maimonides quotes the example of Doeg the Edomite who through his slander of King David and the high priest Ahimelech led to the killing of 85 priests (1 Samuel 22:18) and then the inhabitants of Nob (ibid. 19). The author would like to point out that in our time misuse of social media has led to psychological damage and in rare cases suicide.)

Law 3 – “The Talmud (Arachin 15b) compares idol worship, forbidden relations, and murder to spreading deprecating speech.” In addition the Talmud (ibid.) states: Evil speech kills 3 people (viz. the one who speaks it, the one who listens to it, and the one about whom it is spoken. The one who listens to it suffers more than the one who speaks it.”

Law 5 – “There is no difference whether one speaks in a derogatory fashion about a person in his presence or behind his back. These statements … when passed from one person to another, will cause harm to a man’s person, property, or reputation.”

The Talmud (Ketubot 46a) quotes Leviticus 19:16 as the source verse for the prohibition of a husband falsely claiming in court that his wife was unfaithful to him after betrothal (Deuteronomy 21:14) . In this case witnesses testify to a claim which, if not disproven, could lead to a charge of capital punishment against the wife. Hence the Talmud links the verse about gossip in Leviticus to the verse in the Ten Commandments involving false testimony. 

By contrast the Zohar quotes Leviticus 19:11, “You shall not deny falsely, nor lie one to another” to link to the prohibition of bearing false witnesses. Hence according to the Zohar this verse in Leviticus may refer to lying in a legal court or the court of public opinion.         

Commandment 10 – Prohibition of Coveting

Exodus 20:14 – “Do not covet your fellow’s house. Do not covet your fellow’s wife, his male servant, female servant, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to your fellow.”

Deuteronomy 5:18 – “Do not covet your fellow’s wife. Do not desire (תתאוה) your fellow’s house, field, slave, maidservant, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to your fellow.”

Although the two verbs (viz. covet and desire) appear to be the same, the Mechilta on Exodus 20:14 interprets them as two separate prohibitions:

  • Covet – desire leading to action.
  • Desire – in thought alone.

The Midrash (Leviticus Rabbah 24:5) quotes Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your fellow as yourself” as a link to the prohibition of coveting. At a minimal level the love of a neighbour means that just as one does not want to be harmed or possessions coveted, so one should not do this to others. In addition the first part of this verse refers to harming others, “You shall neither take revenge nor bear a grudge against your people.” In fact the sage Hillel gave this advice to a prospective convert to Judaism (Shabbat 31a) because this person might not be ready to embrace the positive aspect of the mitzvah of loving a neighbour (e.g. doing favours or running errands). The verse in Leviticus is in singular to emphasize that each person should strive, in their own way, to truly appreciate and love his fellow.

In a similar vein the Midrash Tanchuma (Kedoshim 5) quotes Leviticus 19:13 in reference to the prohibition of coveting, “You shall not cheat your fellow nor rob.” This Midrash emphasizes the principle that one sin leads to another (Avot 4:2), first coveting, then cheating, and eventually robbing.

Although the Zohar (3:84b) does not quote a verse in Leviticus in reference to the prohibition of coveting, it does elaborate on this sin in 3:78b. There the Zohar states that this sin, which may consume a man’s mind, is a serious impediment to holiness in addition to the potential harm of translating thoughts to action. Hence the Torah placed this prohibition at the end of the 10 Commandments indicating the difficulty to overcome this desire and the great reward for its control. The Zohar emphasizes that a person should not covet what belongs to someone else because Hashem has allocated each person a lot based upon his destiny. For example King David was destined to marry Bathsheba and their son Solomon would inherit the monarchy. However King David sinned by sending her husband Uriah to be killed in battle (2 Samuel 11:15) and not waiting for his natural death.       


The Maharsha (Berachot 12a) writes that the Ten Commandments are the fundamentals of the faith (quoting Maimonides) and allude to the 613 commandments (quoting Rav Amram Gaon). Hence the reader may ask, “Why the Ten Commandments are not part of the daily prayers?” The Talmud (ibid.) answers that the Ten Commandments were recited in the temple but not elsewhere because the sages were concerned that people might mistakenly assume that only the 10 commandments are of divine origin and not the rest of the Torah. Based upon the above, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 1:5) rules that it is proper for an individual to recite the Ten Commandments daily but not as part of the regular prayers (Mishna Berurah 1:16). The Rema (ibid.) adds that a congregation may not recite the Ten Commandments even after the prayers.

Based upon the link of verses in Leviticus to the Ten Commandments, one can see that the sages of the Talmud and Midrash were more concerned about the fulfillment of the many mitzvoth connected to the Ten Commandments rather than their recital in prayer. Hence the above exegesis emphasizes the principle of holiness in daily life by fulfilling the mitzvoth both between man and the creator and man to his fellowman.

Word Associations

In addition to the verses discussed above the author would like to point out word associations that provide nuances to the word holy (קדש) as follows:

  • Diligence – in Torah study and prayer.
  • Continual effort.
  • Cleave to Hashem.


The root word for holiness is קדש. By rearranging the letters one obtains the root שקד which means diligent as King Solomon (Proverbs 8:34) states, “Fortunate is the man who listens to me to and comes early and diligently (לשקד) to my doors each day. Rashi based upon the Talmud (Berachot 8a) explains that these are the doors of the study hall and synagogue.

Continual Effort

In a similar vein the gematria of קדשים (holy – 454) is the same as תמיד (continually – 454) implying that holiness is a continual effort achieved day by day and not on an occasional basis. In addition the letters of the word קדשים may be rearranged to spell מקדשי which can mean my sanctuary (e.g. Isaiah 60:13) or those who sanctify Hashem as in the Amidah of Shabbat and the festivals (מקדשי שמך those who sanctify Your (divine) name.)    

Cleave to Hashem

In the Atbash system of letter transformation the root קדש becomes דקב and when rearranged becomes דבק which means to cleave, implying that striving for holiness leads to cleaving to Hashem (דבקות). In fact both Midrash Tanchuma (ibid. 5) and Zohar (3:80b) stress that Hashem desires that the Israelites cleave to Him. The verses follow:

Jeremiah 13:11 – “Just as a belt clings to a man’s hips, so have I caused the Israelites to cleave (הדבקתי) to Me.”    

Deuteronomy 4:4 – ““You (Israelites) who cleave to (הדבקים) Hashem your G-d are (truly) alive.”   


This article examined the concept of holiness from different perspectives starting from the initial exhortation to strive for holiness (Leviticus 19:2). The article then explained how physical man can aim for holiness because it is the will of Hashem that man should control his physical nature and establish a relationship with Hashem as a marriage.  The author proceeded, based upon the Midrash and Zohar to explain and expound upon the connection between the 10 Commandments and selected verses in Parshat Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27) in relation to mitzvoth between man and his creator as well as man to his fellow man. This analysis ended using a number of word associations which emphasizes that holiness involves diligence, effort, and cleaving to Hashem.   

Maimonides (Fundamentals of Torah 5:12) describes a life of holiness in the in the following terms. “When a person (especially a Torah scholar) is stringent with himself, speaks pleasantly with others … receives them cordially …conducts his business honestly, studies Torah diligently, and performs the mitzvoth (e.g. wearing a tallit and donning tefillin) … to the extent that all praise and love him – such a person sanctifies Hashem’s name. The verse (Isaiah 49:3) says about him, “Israel, you are My (divine) servant, in whom I (Hashem) will be glorified.”

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