Why here does it say "neighbor" and not fellow. Is the commandment just limited to those that are near?

I know the negative commandment refers to thought- to even think of coveting your neighbors wife, house, or any of his belongings is sinful.

So can someone please elaborate on what g-d is referring to when he says neighbor?

If one is far away can he be allowed to covet something that someone else has?

  • 1
    Off the cuff (and acknowledging DanF's point that the word is used to refer to the entire community, not just the next door neighbor's) I might guess that one is more likely to covet that which he has the most exposure to. One spends more times with neighbors so one must be extra careful not to covet that which is is most familiar with. But that's just a guess.
    – rosends
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 13:40
  • 1
    You are incorrect about this verse referring to thought alone. Almost all authorities do not understand this verse that way, with the Ibn Ezra being perhaps the only exception. For more about this see my answer to judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/75714/…
    – Jay
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 16:44
  • Related: Is “Love Your Neighbor” Meant to Include All People or Just Israelites? hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/25573/16757
    – Michael16
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 17:30

1 Answer 1


The Hebrew word רעך is commonly translated as "neighbor". This isn't the best translation. A better translation might be "close friend", or "fellow". The word is used to apply to any Jew, technically, as all Jews should be "close" to each other in terms of responsibility and caring. In any case, certainly, in the commandment, it is not restricted by geography.

As for the general point of this commandment not to covet anything that belongs to your "fellow" (I'm using my loose translation, here. Also, see the end of the verse. that says "everything". I won't delve into the concept behind itemizing prior to saying "everything".) is a question raised by several commentators.

Ibn Ezra asks how is it possible that someone cannot covet something nice that he sees? He explains that this is exactly the concept of training one's heart and mind. His example is that one does not covet the princess, because he knows that he can't do this (she's the king's daughter, and if he is a villager, he is unworthy to bother with the princess.) Likewise, one does not covet his mom even if she is beautiful.

So the Torah is stating a general rule - train your mind to be satisfied with what G-d has given you so that you will have no reason to covert anything that belongs to any Jew, regardless of where he lives.

@Danno is correct in that the Torah frequently expresses things in what is most "familiar". I.e., in this case, it would be relatively easy to covet your close friend's wife, because, after all, you are close to your friend, and maybe, you have become friendly with his wife. So, in a sense, the Torah may be making a specific point by stating don't do this with anyone, not even your close friend's wife.

  • Thank you! This has certainly cleared up my uncertainty. Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 15:42
  • You're welcome. Inevitably, it is quite difficult to translate from one language to another without being inaccurate somewhere. I'm not sure why a frequent translation of that word is "neighbor". By comparison, one of the blessings at a Jewish wedding uses the same word (in plural). Would you call your spouse a "neighbor" or a "close friend"?
    – DanF
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 15:59
  • Or maybe they meant for it since a neighbor is one that is close to you.. Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 16:32
  • 1
    It's important to note that halachically speaking, you don't have to train your mind as the Ibn Ezra's interpretation is rejected - see judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/75714/… Of course, it's certainly nice if you can! I'm just pointing out that it's not an obligation to do so.
    – Jay
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 16:50
  • @Jay It's important to note the p'saq isn't monolithic, and that it is a bit of an oversimplification to assert that halakha doesn't follow the Hinukh, on the basis of a single later work that doesn't rule accordingly. I would say "halachically speaking, you likely don't have to train your mind". Shavua tov.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 4:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .