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    Coveting in heart & mind

    The tenth Commandment in Parashat Yitro says, Lo tachmod, “Do not covet your neighbour’s house”. In Parashat Va’et’channan it is Lo tit’avveh, “Do not desire your neighbour’s house” (Deut. 5:17).

    Some (e.g. Rashi) regard the two verbs as interchangeable synonyms; others (e.g. Rambam) think they are different.

    What could the difference be?

    One explanation is that tit’avveh is “desire in your heart” whilst tachmod is “covet in your actions”, denoting acts resulting from the desire.

    We find the contrast in Micah 2:1-2 which says, “They covet fields and seize them”. On this basis the wrong is committed when one turns mental envy of a neighbour’s house into illegal appropriation.

    Hence the Yitro version says, “Don’t grab what isn’t yours”, whilst the Va’et’channan version says, “Be strong enough not even to desire it in your heart and mind”.

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