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YOU ARE WHAT YOU SAY
Your speech defines who you are. Like it or not. The Shlah Hakodosh wrote, the very saying Be’ezrat Hashem, Bsiyata Dishmaya, (with the help of Heaven,) before everything that you do, has in it the power to help you, and to make you successful, in that thing that you are dealing with. (Shaar Haotiot 1) It is good to get used to saying, Me’et Hashem, it is all from G-d. (Mishlei Hachamim 1) This is the way of our Forefather Yaakov. (See Bereshit 27; 21- Rashi)
Why is it important to say this? Why can’t you just think this in your heart? King David answered the question. הֶאֱמַנְתִּי – כִּי אֲדַבֵּר I believed, when I spoke (Tehillim 116;10). Hassidic masters explain this, that the Emunah and the Bitahon come to a person through his putting it into words. This is because your heart is hardwired to your actions. Why? Why do the words you use carry such a heavy weight on your identity?
אִישׁ֩ כִּֽי־יִדֹּ֨ר נֶ֜דֶר לַֽיקֹוָ֗ק אֽוֹ־הִשָּׁ֤בַע שְׁבֻעָה֙ לֶאְסֹ֤ר אִסָּר֙ עַל־נַפְשׁ֔וֹ לֹ֥א יַחֵ֖ל דְּבָר֑וֹ כְּכָל־הַיֹּצֵ֥א מִפִּ֖יו יַעֲשֶֽׂה: A man who promises a promise to G-d or swears an oath to make something forbidden to his soul, he shall not make light his word. Whatever came out of his moth, this shall he do.
Our Rabbis learn from here the power of speech of a man who keeps his promises. If one is careful with his word, not to transgress it, G-d Himself, יַעֲשֶֽׂה , will do whatever comes out of this person’s mouth.
Transgressing your vows, even a commitment or promise, can be one of the worst sins of the Torah, transgressing the second of the Ten Commandments. It is so severe that we begin Yom Kippur with Kol Nidrei. Some Sephardic customs are not only Hatarat Nedarim before Rosh Hashana, but a few times before Yom Kippur. For transgressing vows, commitments or promises that were not given the condition of “b’li neder”, one’s wife and/or children can – G-d forbid – die. (Shabbat 32b) What?! Why so harsh? Why is transgressing your word, without saying Bli Neder, so important? And does this mean that I should not promise or commit to anything at all?
The answer is that when you transgress such verbal transgressions, you show that you are not a real person, with real commitments. If you committed to something, you value it. You have positive feelings towards it. It means this is the spiritual you. To be a good husband, to be a good father, you need to be one who can stay committed. One who can’t keep commitments, may risk losing his wife and children.
In life coaching, we are taught the power of a true commitment: it is made with deliberation, determination and motivation. It drives you towards your goals. It keeps you going, even though you haven’t yet seen results. Commitment keeps marriages together. When you say, “Harei At…”, you are committing to all that marriage entails. Commitment is the glue that holds any relationship together. If you cannot commit, you cannot remain a part of a community, synagogue, or any other group. Commitment holds our nation together, and it keeps G-d connected to us. Commitment is the very essence of what it means to be a Jew.
Businesses are built on commitment. All business concepts begin with the question, Who are you committed to serve and what are you committed to offer? Until you walk, talk, breathe your commitment, you have not started your business.
This is what a running coach has written. It gave me a whole new insight on the importance of what we commit to, and the severity of transgressing our word.
“There is a very real power in our words …. A verbal declaration should be clear and specific. It should detail “what” and “by when”. “Bli Neder, I commit to …” “ Bli Neder, I shall …” Avoid weak sentences: “I’ll try…” “I want to …” “I would like to …” Another good example might be: “I will lose 3kg by May 30 this year” as opposed to: “I’ll try to lose weight.”
Your subconscious mind is a super powerful recording device that remembers all the times you have or haven’t done what you said you would do. It doesn’t record the excuses, and whether they are legit or not. If you promised to go to gym at 6am but you press snooze and go at 6.30, this is recorded, and your integrity is compromised. Likewise, if you promise to meet a friend for coffee at 11am and you get there at 11:05, it’s recorded [in your mind] as a time when you broke your word. These add up and impact your overall integrity or character. The gist is, how can you expect yourself to reach your BIG goals, if you cannot trust yourself with little ones? They are directly related, so keep a check on your integrity. It’s the fuel behind the power of your word.
When G-d created the world, He did so through speech.הוא אמר ויהי He said, and it was… R Nachman from Breslev would teach that for your greatest desires to come to fruition, you must transform inspiration, motivation, what touches your soul, into words. As the passuk says, רצון יראיו יעשה ואת שוועתם ישמע ויושיעם. The will of those who fear Him, He will do; and their cry, He will hear and He will save them. Only after they put the requests of their heart into words, will G-d heed their prayer. When one speaks excitedly about his will, this brings his soul into his words, as it says נפשי יצאה בדברו. This takes his thoughts into action.
The Arizal was quoted saying that a person has only a certain amount of vain words in life. (Words of Torah and prayer are not part of this count.) Once a person finishes those words, life ends. This is hinted to into the words of Shir Hashirim. נַפְשִׁי֙ יָֽצְאָ֣ה בְדַבְּר֔וֹ (Shir Hashirim 5) My soul left, when it spoke. This idea was also mentioned in the words of the Darchei Tzedek, student of the Noam Elimelech. (Also see Derech Pikudecha L”T 34) Words, commitment and soul are inseparable.
ברוך אומר ועושה ברוך גוזר ומקיים. Blessed is He Who says and does. Blessed is the One who decrees and keeps (His Word) The very beginning of our praise to G-d is that He keeps His word. We should follow His example.