The Gates of Repentance
Last time we touched on how our thoughts and feelings can draw us closer to
or further away from spiritual excellence. This time we examine how what we
say or don't say does that. The first subject Rabbeinu Yonah addresses in
that context is that of mentioning G-d’s name.
We personally find it curious that G-d's name is uttered so often by
non-believers, yet so rarely by believers. The difference is that
non-believers mention His name flippantly, irreverently, and railingly. While
believers are reticent to mention it either because they’d rather not mention
it in vain-- or because they’d rather not appear so "religious".
But be that as it may, there are simply points at which it's inappropriate to
cite G-d's name. Because doing so would indicate a certain lack of love for
Him or respect. And a soul in search of spiritual excellence would never want
to be "out of love" with or disrespectful of G-d Almighty.
So we're advised not to mention His name, for example, if we ourselves are
unclean or if we find ourselves in an unclean place. It's also suggested that
we only mention His name when we determine we're in a state of holiness.
(This too might explain why believers don't cite G-d’s name all that often.)
Jewish courts would have relevant parties take oaths in G-d's name, in
antiquity. Hence we're also warned not to take false oaths, since that would
entail taking G-d's name in vain. In fact, it's even praiseworthy not to take
any "electable" oaths, even where justified. So as to avoid taking G-d's name
And we're certainly never to curse anyone through the name of G-d; or to say
things like, "so help me G-d!"
Now on to other ways we either augment or diminish our beings by what we say.
We're enjoined not to verbally abuse anyone by perhaps reminding him or her
of a flawed past which he or she hadn't done teshuva (returned to G-d) for.
And not to belittle anyone who’d been placed in a vulnerable position.
We're warned not to "place an impediment before the blind" (Leviticus
19:14). Aside from the literal meaning of the words, the Torah also means for
us not to take advantage of or exploit someone else's lack of know-how or
insight, or his naivete. Hence we'd be best off only offering advice
altruistically rather than for self-serving purposes, to not go about bearing
tales about someone behind his back, and the like.
For though, the truth be known, nothing would fit better with our need to
prove ourselves competent or praiseworthy than doing just that, it's low and
Because so much of our being and so many of our deeds are affected by our
conversations, we’re also advised not to talk about idolatry and the like, or
to foster conflict in our communities (when it's for untoward purposes).
And we’re bidden never to demean Torah scholars. Since they hold the key to
our understanding G-d’s ways in the world, and His wishes for us.
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