Matot – Numbers 30:2 – 32:42 – The Torah portion (parashat ha shavuah) for Shabbat, Saturday, July 19

In Judaism words matter. After all, God created the universe through speech. God spoke and the universe came into existence. So what we say is important. We spent this year studying the Talmud’s rules regulating speech and learned how much the rabbis wanted us to avoid hurting other people through speech.  This week, at the beginning of our Torah portion we read, “If a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath imposing an obligation on himself, he shall not break his pledge; he must carry out all that has crossed his lips.” (Numbers 30:3) To the authors of the Bible and our rabbis spoken words were facts; they changed reality. So they took vows seriously. They encouraged people not to make vows, but if someone made a vow they were obligated to keep it up. Their word was their bond. In our society today we debase speech. We hide our meaning and our intentions behind vague and confusing words. Perhaps we would all be better off if we said what we meant and meant what we said… and paused and weighed our words before we spoke.