I realize that the English translation of עשרת הדברים / דברות is better translated as "Ten pronouncements" rather than "10 Commandments". However, in viewing the text, 2 - 10 seem to be commanding some action (e.g. "Don't have any other gods; respect your parents, etc.)

The first one, "I am your G-d who took you out of Egypt..." doesn't seem to command anything. It seems more like a statement of fact or history.

Does anyone (Ramban, Rambam, etc.) count this as a mitzvah / "commandment"? If so, how do they consider this a commandment of there is no "verb" or directive to do anything as the other 9 have?

  • Do you mean "mitzvah" as "telling you that something is mandatory", "telling you that Hashem said something is mandatory", or as "countable as one of the 613"? The latter 2 have a logical problem the former formulation does not -- accepting that something is commanded presupposed the existence of the One commanding. It would be a meaningfess commandment. Or would you like an answer for each of the above? (I think I could do that, eventually.) Jun 12, 2019 at 13:47
  • The texts don't explicitly divide up the Ten Words, which is why there are multiple traditions about how to split them up. Is there freedom within Judaism to prefer another division, such as that of the Septuagint or Philo? Jun 14, 2019 at 1:18

3 Answers 3


Rambam in Yesodei HaTorah ch. 1 explicitly uses this as the source for the commandment to know of Hashem’s existence.

יְסוֹד הַיְסוֹדוֹת וְעַמּוּד הַחָכְמוֹת לֵידַע שֶׁיֵּשׁ שָׁם מָצוּי רִאשׁוֹן. וְהוּא מַמְצִיא כָּל נִמְצָא. וְכָל הַנִּמְצָאִים מִשָּׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ וּמַה שֶּׁבֵּינֵיהֶם לֹא נִמְצְאוּ אֶלָּא מֵאֲמִתַּת הִמָּצְאוֹ: וְאִם יַעֲלֶה עַל הַדַּעַת שֶׁהוּא אֵינוֹ מָצוּי אֵין דָּבָר אַחֵר יָכוֹל לְהִמָּצְאוֹת: וְאִם יַעֲלֶה עַל הַדַּעַת שֶׁאֵין כָּל הַנִּמְצָאִים מִלְּבַדּוֹ מְצוּיִים הוּא לְבַדּוֹ יִהְיֶה מָצוּי. וְלֹא יִבָּטֵל הוּא לְבִטּוּלָם. שֶׁכָּל הַנִּמְצָאִים צְרִיכִין לוֹ וְהוּא בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לָהֶם וְלֹא לְאֶחָד מֵהֶם. לְפִיכָךְ אֵין אֲמִתָּתוֹ כַּאֲמִתַּת אֶחָד מֵהֶם: ... הַמָּצוּי הַזֶּה הוּא אֱלֹהֵי הָעוֹלָם אֲדוֹן כָּל הָאָרֶץ. וְהוּא הַמַּנְהִיג הַגַּלְגַּל בְּכֹחַ שֶׁאֵין לוֹ קֵץ וְתַכְלִית. בְּכֹחַ שֶׁאֵין לוֹ הֶפְסֵק. שֶׁהַגַּלְגַּל סוֹבֵב תָּמִיד וְאִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּסֹּב בְּלֹא מְסַבֵּב. וְהוּא בָּרוּךְ הוּא הַמְסַבֵּב אוֹתוֹ בְּלֹא יָד וּבְלֹא גּוּף: וִידִיעַת דָּבָר זֶה מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כ ב) "אָנֹכִי ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ".

The foundation of foundations and the pillar of wisdoms is to know that there is there a First Cause, Who put out all that is found. All that exists from heaven and earth, and that which is between them, only exists from the truth of the One Who put them out. If you would suppose that He doesn’t exist, nothing else could exist. But if you would suppose that anything which exists besides Him would not exist, He alone would still exist; He would not be nullified by their nullification, for anything which exists needs Him, but He, blessed is He, doesn’t need them or any one of them. Therefore, His truth is not like the truth of any one of them. ... This Existence is the G-d of the world, Master of the entire land. He leads the sphere with strength without end, with strength with no cessation, as the sphere constantly revolves, and it’s impossible that it revolve without One Who revolves it. He, blessed is He, is the One Who revolves it without a hand or body. Knowledge of this matter is a positive commandment, as it says, “I am Hashem, your G-d.”

Similarly he writes in Sefer Hamitzvos, Asei §1:

היא הצווי אשר צונו בהאמנת האלהות, והוא שנאמין שיש שם עלה וסבה הוא פועל לכל הנמצאים, והוא אמרו אנכי ה' אלהיך. ובסוף גמרא מכות (דף כ"ג:) אמרו תרי"ג מצות נאמרו למשה בסיני, מאי קראה תורה צוה לנו משה, ר"ל מנין תור"ה. והקשו על זה ואמרו תורה בגימטריא תרי"א הוי, והיה המענה אנכי ולא יהיה מפי הגבורה שמענום. הנה נתבאר לך שאנכי ה' מכלל תרי"ג מצות, והוא צווי באמונת האלהות כמו שבארנו. (בפרשת וישמע יתרו, מדע הלכות יסודי התורה פ"א):

It is the commandment which we have been commanded in believing in Hashem, which is to believe that there is there a Higher Power and Cause Who creates all existence, Who said, “I am Hashem your G-d.” At the end of Makkos they said, “613 Mitzvos were said to Moshe on Sinai. What is the passuk? ‘Torah has Moshe commanded us,’” i.e. the Gematria of Torah. They ask: Torah has a Gematria of 611! And it answers: “I am Hashem your G-d” and “There should not be” they heard from Hashem. Behold, it’s explained that “I am Hashem your G-d” is included in the 613 Mitzvos, and it is belief in Hashem, as we explained.

The Ramban on the spot, paraphrasing the BeHaG, takes issue with this Rambam:

ועם כל זה ראיתי לבעל ההלכות שלא ימנה אותה מצוה מכלל תרי"ג והתימה מהרב שמנה בדבור לא יהיה לך ד' מניעות, לא יהיה לך לא תעשה לא תשתחוה להם ולא תעבדם, אם כן יהיה מפי הגבורה חמש ומפי משה תר"ח לא מנין תור"ה. והנראה מדעתו של בעל ההלכות שאין מנין תרי"ג מצות אלא גזירותיו יתעלה שגזר עלינו לעשות או מנענו שלא נעשה, אבל האמונה במציאותו יתעלה שהודיע אותה אלינו באותות ומופתים ובגילוי השכינה לעינינו הוא העיקר והשורש שממנו נולדו המצות לא ימנה בחשבונן, והוא מאמר החכמים גזור עליהם, עשו קבלת המלכות ענין בפני עצמו והמצות הנגזרות מאתו יתעלה מענין אחר,

With all of this I have seen in the Ba’al Halachos that he doesn’t count this Mitzvah among the 613. The astonishment is at the [Rambam] who counts in the statement “there is not to you” four negative commandment: not to have other gods, not to make them, not to bow to them, and not to serve them. If so, five were heard from Hashem and 608 from Moshe, not the Gematria of Torah. What seems to the understanding of the Ba’al Halachos is that 613 Mitzvos is the count of His decrees which He decreed on us to do or removes us that we should not do. But belief in His exalted existence, that He made it known to us with signs, wonders, and the revelation of the Divine Presence to our eyes – that is the foundation and root from which the Mitzvos are born, and will not be counted in their tally. And this is the statement of the Chachamim, “Decree upon them” – accept the kingship as its own matter, and the Mitzvos which are decreed from His Exaltedness as another matter.

Based on this, the BeHaG understands that “I am Hashem your G-d” is not a commandment itself; its meaning is, “Since you accepted My kingship at leaving Mitzraim, there shouldn’t be to you other gods, etc.” To resolve the Gemara, he understands that the second statement has just two commandments: “there should not be” and “do not make” are one, and “do not bow” and “do not serve” are a second.

As for a defense for the Rambam? It’s not unusual for him to read a passuk which doesn’t sound like a commandment to be a commandment anyway. As another example, in Ishus 1:1 he learns that Kiddushin is a Mitzvah from “When a man will take a woman” (Devarim 22:13), which doesn’t sound like a commandment – a point made explicitly by the Rosh in Kesuvos 1:12.

  • I think there’s something off with the second sentence of your translation of the last quote. As it reads now it seems to be that the Ramban is saying that the Behag was astonished at the Rambam, yet the Behag preceded the Rambam.
    – Alex
    Jun 11, 2019 at 19:32
  • @Alex What do you suggest as a better translation?
    – DonielF
    Jun 11, 2019 at 19:33
  • (in reply to your comment) "And the astonishment is at the R[ambam]"
    – msh210
    Jun 11, 2019 at 23:29

Sefer Hachinuch counts this as Mitzvah 25.

In short, the Mitzvah is belief in G-d.

מצות האמנה במציאות השם - להאמין שיש לעולם אלה אחד, שהמציא כל הנמצא ומכחו וחפצו היה כל מה שהוא ושהיה ושיהיה לעדי עד, וכי הוא הוציאנו מארץ מצרים ונתן לנו את התורה. שנאמר בתחלת נתינת התורה (שמות כ ב) אנכי ה' אלהיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים וגו'. ופרושו כאלו אמר תדעו ותאמינו שיש לעולם אלה, כי מלת אנכי תורה על המציאות. ואשר אמר אשר הוצאתיך וכו' לומר, שלא יפתה לבבכם לקחת ענין צאתכם מעבדות מצרים ומכות המצרים דרך מקרה, אלא דעו שאנכי הוא שהוצאתי אתכם בחפץ ובהשגחה, כמו שהבטיח לאבותינו אברהם יצחק ויעקב.

The commandment of belief in God: To believe that the world has one God that caused all that exists, and that all that is, and was, and will be forever and ever, is from His power and His will; and that He took us out out of Egypt and gave us the Torah - as it is stated (Exodus 20:2), "I am the Lord, your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt, etc." And its understanding is as if it said, "Know and believe that there is one God" - since the word, "I," indicates existence. And that which it stated, "who took you out, etc.," is to say that your hearts not seduce you to take the matter of your leaving the slavery of Egypt and the plagues of Egypt as the way of happenstance; but rather you should know that I am the One who took you out with will and providence - as He promised our forefathers, Avraham, Yitschak and Yaakov.


I have heard or read many explanations about "I am the Lord your God".

-It is not a commandment and must not be counted as such. If God had wanted it to be a commandment, He would have phrased it like the following commandments; something like: “You must accept (believe) that I am the Lord your God.”

-You may believe what you want, but you may not say or preach out loud that there is no God. Perhaps even: You must say or preach that God does exist. These are actions, and you can control them.

-It is meant as an implicit threat: “You must do the following or there will be consequences.”

-In order to follow commandments, you must first have faith in the authority behind these commandments.

-It does not refer to faith, or belief (emunah), but trust in a benevolent higher power that loves us and guides us. Faith is specific, trust is diffuse.

-Literal: Accept that I am the same God who took you out of Egypt, and I am back to issue commandments. (Even if you believe there are other gods, believe at least in this continuity.)

-Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman: The commandment is to work on ourselves to remove the obstacles that cause us to deny God's existence.

-Any list of the 613 is subjective to some extent. One could lump “I am the Lord Your God” and “You will have no other God before me” and make it the first commandment; and “No idolatry” the second. They are different. The first says, e.g., no dualism (God of good and God of evil, both invisible) and the second says no idols of wood and stone. (Some Christians do that.)

-The Midrash [Exodus Rabbah 29:1-9] offers the following:

-Rabbi Tobiah ben Yitzhaq expounded: I brought you out of the land of Egypt on the condition that you acknowledge Me as your God.

-[The situation] can be compared to a princess who has been taken captive by robbers, and was delivered by a king who later wished to marry her… She said: “What dowry do you give me?” He replied … “I rescued you from the robbers. That is sufficient.”

-Rabbi Shim’on bar Yohai said [Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 12:5]: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel: “I am God over all earth's creatures, yet I have associated My name only with you; for I am not called ‘the god of idolaters" but "the God of Israel’.”

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