Gershon Hepner

The Tenth Commandment, the Primal Sin and Prophylactic Fringes

The Deuteronomic prohibition in the Tenth Commandment of lo tahmod, not to covet

what tempts the eyes, explains the primal sin which Adam, helped by Eve,

committed, taking fruit outlawed by God to both our parents, saying to his wife, “I love it,”

vetoing thus the prophylaxis of desire, which I believe

to be the textual rationale of the fringed garment called a tallis, tailored by the same

rationale as this commandment, for whose violation we should blame

our parents’ sad expulsion from the Edenic garden in great shame,

caused by a violation of the tenth commandment, not mentioning its name,

a violation that’s prevented also by taleysim, blue-fringed garments that divert the eyes

from all the futile fallacies they might espy. The rationale of every tallis

is to prevent the spoiling of the Torah by these specious spies,

whose mission lo taturu, is protecting Torah’s memory palace,

encouraging all Jews who, as commanded, wear this holy habit

to recall the Eden Garden in the memory palace they inhabit;

protected by not vetoing the tenth commandment whose sad violation

led to expulsion from the garden, per my exegetic explanation.

In “Do Not Covet: Is It a Feeling or an Action?”, Leonard Greenspoon writes:

In English, to covet means to desire someone or something obsessively, wrongfully, and/or without due regard for the rights/feelings of others. It is a strong emotion, to be avoided. But does “covet” capture the meaning of the Hebrew verb חמד?

In  Deuteronomy, the verb “covet” (ח.מ.ד) appears only once,] and another (synonymous?) term, “crave” or “desire” (א.ו.ה) appears in the second prohibition:

דברים ה:יח{כא} וְלֹא תַחְמֹד אֵשֶׁת רֵעֶךָ Deut 5:18 {21} You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. וְלֹא תִתְאַוֶּה בֵּית רֵעֶךָ שָׂדֵהוּ וְעַבְדּוֹ וַאֲמָתוֹ שׁוֹרוֹ וַחֲמֹרוֹ וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר לְרֵעֶךָ. You shall not crave your neighbor’s house, or his field, or his male or female slave, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.[4]

            Both verbs appear in the description in Gen. 3:16 of Eve’s inability to resist the temptation crated by her craving for the forbidden fruit:

וַתֵּ֣רֶא הָֽאִשָּׁ֡ה כִּ֣י טוֹב֩ הָעֵ֨ץ לְמַאֲכָ֜ל וְכִ֧י תַֽאֲוָה־ה֣וּא לָעֵינַ֗יִם וְנֶחְמָ֤ד הָעֵץ֙ לְהַשְׂכִּ֔יל וַתִּקַּ֥ח מִפִּרְי֖וֹ וַתֹּאכַ֑ל וַתִּתֵּ֧ן גַּם־לְאִישָׁ֛הּ עִמָּ֖הּ וַיֹּאכַֽל׃

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and a ta’avah, cause of craving, for the eyes, and that the tree was nehmad, desirable as a source of wisdom, she took of its fruit and ate, and also gave some to her husband, and he ate.

Num. 15:38-40 states:

דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם וְעָשׂ֨וּ לָהֶ֥ם צִיצִ֛ת עַל־כַּנְפֵ֥י בִגְדֵיהֶ֖ם לְדֹרֹתָ֑ם וְנָ֥תְנ֛וּ עַל־צִיצִ֥ת הַכָּנָ֖ף פְּתִ֥יל תְּכֵֽלֶת׃

Speak to the Israelite people and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a cord of blue to the fringe at each corner.

וְהָיָ֣ה לָכֶם֮ לְצִיצִת֒ וּרְאִיתֶ֣ם אֹת֗וֹ וּזְכַרְתֶּם֙ אֶת־כׇּל־מִצְוֺ֣ת יְהֹוָ֔ה וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֹתָ֑ם וְלֹֽא־תָת֜וּרוּ אַחֲרֵ֤י לְבַבְכֶם֙ וְאַחֲרֵ֣י עֵֽינֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־אַתֶּ֥ם זֹנִ֖ים אַחֲרֵיהֶֽם׃

That shall be your fringe; look at it and recall all the commandments of יהוה and observe them, velo tatjuru, so that you do not spy, following your heart and eyes in your lustful urge.

לְמַ֣עַן תִּזְכְּר֔וּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֶת־כׇּל־מִצְוֺתָ֑י וִהְיִיתֶ֥ם קְדֹשִׁ֖ים לֵאלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם׃

The author Gershon, with his son Zachary putting on his first tefillin
About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at