This week we complete the reading of the book of Bamidbar/Numbers with the last two Torah portions from that book, Mattot and Masei. Throughout these readings, the power of our words is a major theme.
Mattot opens with a discussion of vows. A vow is a solemn commitment to specific action for a specific period of time and for a specific purpose. While the making of a vow is not intended to be a daily or weekly occurrence in our lives, the underlying message is. In the opening verses, we read, “…according to whatever comes from his mouth shall he do.” We are obligated by the words that we speak. Or — a man’s word is his bond.
Speech is a defining human quality, an ability which is part of what is involved in the declaration: ‘in the image of God created He them.’ But speech is not only a defining human quality; it is also a manifestation of the Divine spark within us, the Divine Breath, as it were. “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul” (Bre/Gen 2:7) The term in Hebrew is nefesh chaya which is also translated in some places as ‘a speaking spirit’.
God could have created this world any way He pleased. This beautiful planet could have resulted from just a Divine thought or the Divine Will. Instead God chose to use words to create our world and to create mankind.
We need to realize that every time we speak, we utilize the very same tool which God purposely and specifically chose to use in the very act of Creation! This concept deserves some serious meditation. This is the very reason why the Torah — and indeed all of Tanach (the Bible) — gives such importance to our speech.
We know that thoughts give birth to words, and words give birth to action. There is a process common to all of us: thoughts – words – actions. When God speaks, His thoughts, His words, His actions are in complete alignment with one another; in total unity all the time. His thoughts, words and actions are ONE.
Too often, ours are not. Hence, the commandment, ‘according to whatever comes from his mouth, that shall he do.’
Consider: We were created in His image and likeness. We are commanded in Torah ‘to be holy as I am holy’. We are called to emulate Him, to reflect Who He is to those around us, to be a light to the nations.
An essential element in our ability to fulfill this calling is inner integrity of soul. When our words say one thing, and our actions say something different, we are fundamentally violating the very purpose for which we were created and the very destiny to which He has called us.
To become more like Him, whose thoughts, words and actions are always in unity, we need to strive towards that same unity in our thoughts, words and behavior.
When our thoughts are disconnected from our words or our words from our actions, we are being fundamentally dishonest. That dishonesty may or may not affect others in a particular instance, but it ALWAYS affects us, our inner being and can even impact our descendants. To say one thing and then do another is the mark of an unreliable person.
In Tune with Torah this week = ask yourself – do I say what I think other people want to hear? Or am I straightforward in my communications? Do my actions reflect my words or not? Do I speak and act truthfully with graciousness and kindness or are my words and actions manipulated by what others will think? Or what I think they may think?? Learning to live with complete internal integrity is a lifelong journey and this week’s parshiot bring that challenge to the forefront for our meditation.