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  • Writer's pictureAliza Davidovit

DAY #3: Don't take the name of the Lord in vain”-- Do you abuse God’s name?

Most people know the first part of the sentence of the aforesaid commandment. But the second half is also something that highly merits reckoning: “For the LORD will not absolve anyone who takes His name in vain.” The sages teach that in regard to all of the other transgressions in the Torah, only the sinner is punished, whereas here, he, his family and the entire world suffers the consequences. Perhaps we should be a little shaken because the Talmud states that the earth itself trembled upon hearing God’s warning. “Because of swearing the land mourns.” (Jeremiah 23:10) In addition, the Zohar teaches that God created the world with a letter from His name, thus when using God’s name in vain, the entire world is affected. (Rabbi Aaron Raskin) “Upholding an oath means upholding the world. If one man would not be believed by another man under oath, the world could not be sustained.” (Teshuva MeAhava Part I:26)

How many times have you made a promise to God or to others in God’s name, and not kept it? Once that plane landed safely, your oath to be nicer to your mother vanished somewhere between the turbulence and the baggage carousel. On Yom Kippur you swore to the Almighty you’d do certain things better and then didn’t. That’s calling upon God’s name in vain. Have you perjured yourself in traffic court or on other occasions while you swore with your hand on the Bible? Have you sworn to a friend that something was true when it wasn’t? Have you said the wrong prayer on the wrong occasion calling down God’s holy names for no reason at all? You may think it’s no big deal, but He does. The Eighth Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal,” and the Third, taking God’s name in vain, are partners in crime--for in the end, every thief will resort to a false oath to deny his deed. (Chabad) A person will also swear something is true or legit in order to steal from another.

Maimonides enumerates four oaths we must never take: Don’t swear on something that is obviously not true, i.e. this car is an airplane; don’t swear on something that is not even disputed to begin with, i.e. this car is a car; don’t swear that you are NOT going to do a commandment in the Torah, i.e., “Rabbi I just want be honest, I swear to God I’m never going to keep kosher”; don’t swear on something that is impossible to do, “I swear I’ll stay awake for 10 days straight if you forgive me.”

The Third Commandment hallows speech, a gift given just to man not animals (Rabbi Elie Munk). In addition G-d created the world through words, we must value the holiness of the vessel that is our mouth. Guard your tongue. Think before you speak. You will find it helps in all aspects of your life.



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