“A person who makes an oath…should not profane his words. All that comes out of his mouth, he should do.” (Bamidbar 30)
After opening with a series of commandments relating to oaths, our Parsha concludes with an example of words that must be honored.
When the tribes of Reuven and Gad ask to build pens for their livestock and cities for their children on the Eastern shores of the Jordan, Moshe agrees that they should build cities for their children and pens for their livestock (in that order) in that desired fertile land, but they will inherit it only after they lead the rest of the tribes in conquering all of Eretz Yisrael.
Moshe’s language reminds them how their words reveal their priorities, and that they must keep their promise to their brothers and not separate from them:
“And what comes out of your mouths, you will do!” (Bamidbar 32)
On Moshe’s urging, they keep their word.
Today, while political promises may have become cheap, on a personal and national level we must still strive for integrity, particularly during this last stretch before the fast of the 9th of Av, when we lost our homeland more than once, because of infighting and causeless hatred.
Our words shape and reflect the way we think. When I speak positively about people or outcomes that are not clear yet, it increases both my faith and the possibility that things will work out well.
When awareness of our situation leads us to simple words of prayer, for the Clal or very personally – “I feel stressed and confused tonight, let me feel clarity and wholeness tomorrow..” – we can still fix what’s broken.
Conversely, downplaying the significance of our words and promises, or speaking of “we are doomed” scenarios, rarely get us anywhere but doomed…
Our words are often all we have.
Let them be strengthening and true.