The Godly Power of Speech

Yael Eckstein  |  August 18, 2021

Yael Eckstein praying at the Western Wall

Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God with your own mouth. — Deuteronomy 23:23

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Ki Teitzei, which means “when you go out,” from Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19.

One thing that kids are really good at is reminding their parents about promises that they made. Every parent has heard those dreaded words from their child, “But you promised!” Whenever I hear this from my kids, I wonder why I made the mistake of promising in the first place! And then there are the promises to my kids that I remember but haven’t gotten around to yet. Unfulfilled commitments can hang over me like a yoke around my neck. Why do I do this to myself?

On a more serious note, when we make promises, we obligate ourselves with our words. Keeping these commitments is a matter of integrity. So the question becomes: How careful and committed are we about what comes out of our mouths?

In the Creation story in Genesis, the verb that repeats itself over and over is “God said.” “God said, let there be light.” “God said, let the land produce vegetation…” God created the world with speech. God first spoke each part of Creation, and then He created it. Who was He speaking to? Why not just tell us what He created?

The Godly Power of Speech

The Bible is teaching us a powerful lesson about speech — every act of God fulfilled a commitment that God first made. When He created Adam and Eve, God created the only beings in all of Creation that share this godly power of speech. And our speech, like God’s, has the power to create and destroy.

In this week’s Torah portion, the Bible tells us how careful we must be about our verbal commitments. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do. But why? After all, they’re only words? Why do they bind us? Our words bind us because we are created in the image of God. Like God, our actions are not merely instinctive reactions of the moment. Among God’s creations, only people have the ability to think, make commitments, and then fulfil them.

When we show God that we keep our commitments to Him, we can trust that He will keep His commitments to us.

Your Turn:

Are there commitments that you’ve made — to others, to God, or to yourself — that you haven’t fulfilled yet? Maybe it’s time to check some things off that list!

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