With Honor Comes Responsibility

Parshat Matot (Bamidbar 30:2-3) begins with the words “Moshe spoke to the tribal leaders (Roshei HaMatot) of B’nai Yisrael saying: ‘This is the word that God has commanded. If a man makes a vow to God or makes an oath to obligate himself, he may not profane his word (lo yachel dvaro). He shall do all that he said.”

The Chatam Sofer asks the following question: Why is the Parsha concerning vows and promises (including the words “he may not profane his word”) mentioned to the heads of the tribes? He answers that most of the time the heads of the tribes, the leaders, are the ones who vow and promise and don’t follow through on their promises. The leaders are the ones who have to change their ways and be careful about what they say and promise, therefore the warning was directed at them.

We see this all too often throughout the world. Politicians will make promises in order to get elected and then once elected they either do not follow through or they do exactly the opposite of what they promised. However, as it says in the Parsha “He may not profane his word. He shall do all that he said.” We must expect more and we should raise our standards.

Rashi states that the tribal leaders were given the special privilege of being taught the laws of vows before the rest of B’nai Yisrael. The tribal leaders were also granted the honor of being able to nullify vows individually (usually three men were needed to annul a vow).

With honor comes responsibility.

As many congregations recite each Shabbat in the Prayer for the Welfare of the Government “May God sustain them and protect them from every trouble, woe and injury, may He rescue them and put into the heart of all of their counselors compassion to do good with us…”