The Ten Principles for America
Dr. Ron Wexler

The Third Commandment

“You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain, for God will not absolve anyone who takes his name in vain”. When we follow the previous two commandments (See essay one and two) we will see that this commandment extends the concept of the previous commandment. Just as it is forbidden to show contempt for God by making an idol, it is also forbidden to disgrace His Name by using it for no good reason. The Sages explain that the pure meaning of this commandment states that it is forbidden to even utter God’s name casually and without valid purpose.

Many modern commentaries refer to the commandments as two sets, the first four are commandments or principles regarding God and mankind, and the other six are relating to men’s behavior and relationships. However, all the Jewish sages agree that the commandments are divided equally into five and five. Not only are they divided equally but they actually relate to the opposite column in perfect order. Thus, the first five commandments relating to God and mankind are also relating to the same order of the five commandments dealing with man’s behavior and relationships. Thus, the first commandment on the first tablet relates to the sixth commandment on the second tablet, the second commandment relates to the seventh commandment on the second tablet, the third commandment relates in perfect order to the eighth commandment and so on.

In the first commandment God introduces himself as God to mankind, and in the sixth commandment God tells us, “do not murder”, we can quickly observe the relationship of the two commandments. Recognizing the Almighty as God and giving him the appropriate respect allows for the perfect understanding as to why man should not murder other men; God created man in His image. Respect to God and his creation of man lent to the respect that we as humans must give one another. Murdering a human being is giving no respect to God!

The second commandment that there will be no other gods before me, relates perfectly with the seventh commandment, “Do not commit adultery”. The second commandment is no different to a suspicious husband and his claim that his wife has been unfaithful. This is what God is asking us to do in the second commandment. Remembering the second commandment is an assurance of family values and the commitment between a husband and wife.

The Sages explain that the third commandment forbids the use of the name of God to validate any type of vain oath: An example for such an oath without validity would be taking an oath pointing at a piece of wood and swearing that this is a piece of wood. Another type of oath contrary to the first example would be taking an oath to point out a piece of wood and swearing that it is silver or gold. Both are oaths taken in vain, as neither one serves any purpose.

The term vain, appears within the commandments twice. The Sages translate vain, as false. “For God will not absolve anyone who takes His Name in vain, the Sages state that when someone uses Gods Name in vain to validate an oath it is the same as if the person is saying that the word is as true as Gods existence”. For a person to validate an oath in such manor is contempt; therefore God will not absolve him.

Some of the sages depict the verb take, from the phrase “do not take my name in vain” and ask, what could a man take from God Almighty? It would be presumptions, that we, humans can take anything at all from God. However, the only possession that God has that we can actually take is His Name. If God’s Name is the only possession that God has and that name belongs only to Him, then taking His name in vain equates to stealing.

The seventh commandment equates with the third commandment which is “do not steal”, would this not jump at us when we look at these two commandments, when one says do not steal Gods Name, and the other states, do not steal from others that which does not belong to us?


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