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Not to desecrate our words

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin 

This week's Torah portion begins with a most clearly stated and direct demand that a man "will not violate his word: Whatever he says, he must do."

The parashah is concerned with a man who made a vow, but our commentators explain that this demand is a call to all of us to seriously consider the words that come out of our mouths. What does "will not violate his word" mean? Rashi clarifies by commenting that "will not violate" (יחל) can also mean "will not profane, desecrate, (יחלל), will not make his words unholy."

What a fascinating definition: Just as there is chillul Shabbat or desecrating Shabbat, there is also chillul dibur or desecrating our speech. We profane our speech by not doing what we say.

We can promise things to our children and then forget our promises, or commit to all kinds of things to others, or even to ourselves, and fail to follow through.

A moment before entering the Land of Israel, Moshe Rabbeinu reminds us to build a culture where "a word is a word", and not to make any of our words, which are meant to be holy, profane.


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