This week the world lost an exceptional man, Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski zt”l an esteemed Hassidic rabbi and acclaimed psychiatrist whose professional accomplishments and world contributions were monumental. A prolific writer, he authored ninety books on psychology and Jewish spirituality.
I wanted to share a thought on this week’s Parsha, that Rabbi Twerski writes in his commentary on Chumash, a powerful lesson about honesty relevant to our daily lives.
The third of the ten commandments is “You shall not take the name of Hashem your G-d in vain (Shemot 20:7).
This commandment forbids swearing falsely. The Talmud says that when God spoke this commandment, the entire world trembled (Shavuot 39a). What is so outstanding about this particular commandment that makes it so formidable?
The author of Chezyonot Avraham says that this commandment was a prerequisite for all the commandments that follow.
Our capacity to rationalize is remarkable. The human mind is ingenious in producing logical reasons for something one wishes to do. Rationalizations, of course, are nothing but good reasons to cover up the true reason. The danger of rationalization is that we might delude ourselves to actually believe the conjured-up reasons.
People have justified stealing and cheating, saying that they use the money for worthy causes. Some people who do not observe Shabbat may say that the laws of Shabbat are absolute. For example, making a fire was prohibited because it involves work, but pushing a button to turn on the light is not work. The real reason for these justifications is that they wish to satisfy their desires, so they rationalize in order to eliminate any obstacles. However, if they have to swear to the reason for a particular act, the severity of the transgression, “God will not absolve anyone who takes his name in vain,” might break through their self-deception. If the rationalization were eliminated, they would be discouraged from doing the forbidden act.
This commandment is, therefore, fundamental to observance of the entire Torah. When this commandment was pronounced, the convulsions of the earth served to impress upon the Israelites its awesome nature and made them cognizant of the importance of adhering to the truth.
Please join us this Sunday, February 7th, for a memorial marking the end of Shiva for the late Rabbi Dr. Twerski zt”l, at 7:00 PM via zoom – meeting ID: 778 836 7607.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay