Friday, July 20, 2012

Matos 5634 Second Ma'amar

The laws of vows at the beginning of this week's parsha teach us the power of speech.    
Through vows the Torah gave us the ability to give our verbal commitments the power of a biblical prohibition.  For example, we can vow that apples are prohibited to us.  When a person makes such a vow, apples become prohibited to him just as non-kosher animals are prohibited to him.  This applies only the nation of Israel.  What is the nature of this power of speech and how can we use it in serving God?
The prohibition that a person transgresses when he violates his vow is, "לא יחל דברו ככל היוצא מפיו יעשה/… he shall not profane his words; everything that comes out of his mouth, he shall do." (Bamidbar 30:3)  Why does the Torah use the word, "profane"?  Why not simply state that he may not do something that is against what he said?  Rashi explains that the pasuk is telling us that one who made a vow may not make his words חולין/unholy.  We can infer from Rashi that a person's words are inherently holy.  If he does not respect his verbal commitment, he is making light of the inherent holiness in his speech.
The power of our speech, then, comes from the holiness that is inherent in it.
The Sfas Emes teaches that, because of this holiness inherent in our speech, we can use our power of speech to bring ourselves close to God through words of Torah.  In fact, this is the reason that God requires us to say Kri'as Shma twice daily.  This is also the reason that Chazal instituted Brachos and Tefillos.  All these are tools that capitalize on the power of speech in order to bring us closer to God.
However, this only works if we respect the holiness in our speech.  When we honor our commitments and use our power of speech for Torah and mitzvos instead of transgressions, we are showing respect for the holiness of speech.
To the extent that we respect the holiness of our speech, our Kri'as Shma, Tefillos and Brachos bring us closer to God.  More than this, to the extent that we respect this holiness by guarding our tongue we merit being able to honor all our verbal commitments.  This is because our commitments and prayers for God's help are more powerful.  The commitment itself is a power that helps to actualize it.  

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