Divrei Torah

PARSHAS MATOS-MASEI 5778

In the beginning of this week’s first parsha, the Torah teaches us the laws regarding oaths. For example, many people ask for additional “Mishebeirach” after their aliya to give a bracha for their family members. Part of the text of that Mishebeirach is that the person who requests that the Mishebeirach be said must make a donation to the shul. I don’t know how many people are aware that they are making an oath to give a donation to the shul.

One of the laws of oaths is that a person can annul certain oaths through a Bais Din or an expert in the laws of oaths. Although an oath can be invalidated, it still should not be taken lightly. The Talmud relates an incident from Tanach when annulment of an oath led to terrible consequences. 

The last king of Yehuda, Tzidkiyahu, - as his name indicates – was a righteous king. He only did one thing wrong. He was a vassal of the Babylonian king Nevuchadnezzar. Nevuchadnezzar originally treated Tzidkiyahu with a great deal of respect and gave him free access to his royal palace. One time, Tzidkiyahu entered the royal dining room and found Nevuchadnezzar eating a rabbit that was still alive. Nevuchadnezzar did not want his cruel habits to be publicized so he enforced an oath upon Tzidkiyahu that he would never reveal what he saw. 

Later, Tzidkiyahu regretted his oath. He requested from the Sanhedrin – the Jewish court – to annul his oath and they agreed. Sure enough, Tzidkiyahu revealed his secret and Nevuchadnezzar found out about it. As their punishment, Nevuchadnezzar executed the members of the Sanhedrin, blinded Tzidkiyahu and exiled him to Babylonia.

The main idea from this story is that we must watch what comes out from our mouths. The wrong statement or phrase - no matter how well intended or innocent - can cause great harm if it is not thought out in advance.  

Rabbi Peysach Krohn mentioned that the Hebrew letter “Peh” comes in two forms. The regular Peh is used in the beginning and middle of a word. The final “Peh” is used at the end of a word. The regular “Peh” is closed since the base wraps around and almost encloses the letter. The final “Peh” is open on the bottom. The letter “Peh” is the Hebrew word for mouth. The two forms of the letter “Peh” teach us that sometimes the mouth can be open, while at other times, the mouth should be closed. We must know when each is appropriate. 

The Bais Hamikdash was destroyed because people did not get along. They did not talk properly to one another or about one another. Especially during this period of time – the three weeks and nine days – we should pay close attention to our speech so we can completely undo the destruction of the Land of Israel and live in a fully rebuilt Jerusalem.