THE TENTH COMMANDMENT: YOU SHALL NOT COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR’S WIFE. YOU SHALL NOT CRAVE YOUR NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE, OR HIS FIELD, OR HIS MALE OR FEMALE SLAVE, OR HIS OX, OR HIS ASS, OR ANYTHING THAT IS THY NEIGHBOR’S. Deuteronomy 5:12 . Tanakh Version, Jewish Publication Society.
The use of the word “crave” in the Tanakh translation is illuminating. My reaction to “covet” is strong, but to “crave” something hits me in the gut. Covet sounds like it could be a longing from afar, almost like a “wish” for something, but a craving sounds beastly and uncontrollable. That may be because of drug associations with the word. The King James Version is different still and uses the word “desire” in relation to your neighbor’s wife, and “covet” where the Tanakh uses “crave.” Our grandson and Bear both find covet to be a stronger word.
At any rate, the commandment is very clear that we are not to desire, crave, or covet our neighbor’s family, property or goods of any kind. Bear says that should cover all the bases.
I cannot help but think that of all the commandments that deal with our relationships to our “neighbors” or fellow men, this particular one is presented last in order for a purpose. This one warns us of the beginnings of sin that lead to greater sin: bearing false witness, stealing, adultery and murder, all the ways we can harm one another, and we have already been told not to do those things.
When we wake up and find ourselves taking the path of covetousness, while we still have the capability and strength to see clearly our need to repent, we must do so and stop our downward slide into those greater sins.
In our youth, many of us succumb to jealousy over the beauty, poise or apparent riches of others. Teenagers may feel ugly, unloved and stupid, and so jealousy of others takes over. This is one of the reasons youth require much positive training and reinforcement in proper behavior. At any age, though, we all need to learn to restrain jealousy. Keeping any of The Ten Commandments takes self awareness and self control, virtues disdained in our society today. Many seem to have fallen into a degree of hedonism that can lead to the destruction of civil society if we do not reverse course.
Do not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s also has political repercussions as class warfare is used to divide us as a people. Do you think another’s money should be confiscated by tax policy to be given to others? Do you really believe that redistribution of wealth is a worthy goal? Who gets to decide what you do with what you have earned?
How should charity be handled, by the heavy hand of government, or by individuals acting freely out of love for their fellow men? Where is the most individual growth fostered?
Do not covet that which is not yours, and become adult enough to work for your own daily bread.