Your word, it had better be your bond
© 2013 S.H. Parker
In Bamidbar 30:3, we read just how important what we say is to God:
|If a man makes a vow to the Lord or makes an oath to prohibit himself, he shall not violate his word; according to whatever came out of his mouth, he shall do.||אִישׁ כִּי יִדֹּר נֶדֶר לַי־הֹוָ־ה אוֹ הִשָּׁבַע שְׁבֻעָה לֶאְסֹר אִסָּר עַל נַפְשׁוֹ לֹא יַחֵל דְּבָרוֹ כְּכָל הַיֹּצֵא מִפִּיו יַעֲשֶׂה|
Some scholars argue that "he will not violate his word" is more correctly translated as "he shall not desecrate his word." In fact, they claim, this is not simply "more correct," it is correct. "Violate" is just plain incorrect.
Makes it pretty clear, doesn't it? You say it, you do it. Period.But, there's more ...
|[Rather,] you shall have a full and honest weight, [and] a full and honest ephah measure, in order that your days will be prolonged on the land which the Lord, your God, gives you.||אֶבֶן שְׁלֵמָה וָצֶדֶק יִהְיֶה לָּךְ אֵיפָה שְׁלֵמָה וָצֶדֶק יִהְיֶה לָּךְ לְמַעַן יַאֲרִיכוּ יָמֶיךָ עַל הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ|
|For whoever does these things, whoever perpetrates such injustice, is an abomination to the Lord, your God.||כִּי תוֹעֲבַת יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ כָּל עֹשֵׂה אֵלֶּה כֹּל עֹשֵׂה עָוֶל|
In Shabbat 31a (four paragraphs after "while I stand on one foot"), we learn:
Raba said, When man is led in for Judgment he is asked, Did you deal faithfully [i.e., with integrity], did you fix times for learning, did you engage in procreation, did you hope for salvation, did you engage in the dialectics of wisdom, did you understand one thing from another. Yet even so, if 'the fear of the Lord is his treasure,' it is well: if not, [it is] not [well].
This may be compared to a man who instructed his agent, 'Take me up a kor of wheat in the loft,' and he went and did so. 'Did you mix in a kab of humton? [a sandy soil containing salty substances and used for the preservation of wheat] he asked him, 'No,' replied he. 'Then it were better that you had not carried it up,' he retorted. The School of R. Ishmael taught: A man may mix a kab of humton in a kor of grain, and have no fear [of dishonesty, when he sells the whole as grain, because that proportion is necessary for its preservation. One kab = one hundred and eightieth of a kor].
Rabbi Ginsberg elucidates this matter: when a person is brought before the heavenly tribunal for final judgment they ask him, 1) did you deal faithfully in business? 2) Did you affix times for Torah learning? 3) Did you engage in the proliferation of the species? 4) Did you look forward to redemption? 5) Did you engage in wisdom? And 6) did you understand or deduce one thing from the next? The Talmud then goes on to say that more important than any of these matters is the fear of heaven, a sense of reverence and awe for G-d. He notes that the first thing question at final judgment is "Were you honest in your business dealings?" not "Did you obey all the rituals, holidays, etc.?"
Rabbah b. R. Huna said: Every man who possesses learning without the fear of Heaven is like a treasurer who is entrusted with the inner keys but not with the outer: how is he to enter? R. Jannai proclaimed: Woe to him who has no courtyard yet makes a gate for same! Rab Judah said, The Holy One, blessed be He, created His world only that men should fear Him, for it is said, and God hath done it, that men should fear before Him.
"Did you deal honestly?" I.e., was your word your bond?