Over the last two years, a simple word game has attracted over 250,000 people to play daily. What is it about Wordle that is so inviting? An article published on NPR’s website by James Doubek and Marc Rivers suggests that it is the simplicity, the sense of limitation (only six tries), and the ability to be part of a community that has contributed to the Wordle craze.
The truth is that all Jews are part of a larger word based community that is referenced in this week’s Parsha.
……………………………… Numbers 30:3
אִישׁ֩ כִּֽי־יִדֹּ֨ר נֶ֜דֶר לַֽיוָ֗ה אֽוֹ־הִשָּׁ֤בַע שְׁבֻעָה֙ לֶאְסֹ֤ר אִסָּר֙ עַל־נַפְשׁ֔וֹ לֹ֥א יַחֵ֖ל דְּבָר֑וֹ כְּכׇל־הַיֹּצֵ֥א מִפִּ֖יו יַעֲשֶֽׂה׃
If one makes a vow to G-d or takes an oath imposing an obligation on himself, he shall not violate his pledge; he must carry out all that has crossed his lips.
At first glance it seems the Torah is simply adjuring us to maintain our vows. However, there is a much deeper lesson here as well: the power of one’s word. The verse is forewarning us not to profane our word.
Words have power. One gets married with the recitation of a word formula; and conversely a divorce is also generated with words. Vows are made with words. In fact, the Mishna in Avot 5:1 states that with Ten Utterances G-d himself created the world. G-d’s one and only verbal interaction with the entire nation of Israel was The Ten Commandments (Statements). The most common blessing recited over food is:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ‑יָ אֱ‑לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהַכֹּל נִהְיָה בִּדְבָרוֹ:
Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, by Whose word all things came to be. Our words are paramount! We must not profane them.
Our “word” has a different connotation as well. It refers to reliability, trustworthiness, and loyalty. When I say, I’m giving you my word, or her word is super reliable, it is one’s trustworthiness that is being referenced.
In our world of fake news and the spinning of all headlines, a true and reliable word is precious. Perhaps this is what’s behind the commandment of not profaning one’s word.
Here’s wishing everyone the beautiful Shabbat word greeting:
Community Scholar in Residence