Shabbat comes in 4.29pm; goes out 5.36pm
In this week’s parasha — Yitro — we read the ten commandments. The third commandment prohibits swearing in vain. What does it mean to swear in vain? The sages define this as:
- swearing to the truth of something that is obviously true and well known (e.g. that the sun is hot);
- swearing in denial of an obvious truth (e.g. that the moon is made of cheese);
- swearing to violate the Torah (e.g. that one will eat pork, an oath which is immediately void because we are considered to have taken a prior oath at Sinai to not eat pork; hence, the oath is in vain and a disrespectful and potentially harmful use of God’s name);
- swearing to do something that is impossible (e.g. to stay awake for a full week).
The common denominator of these types of vain oaths is that they all “cheapen” the use of G-d’s name and threaten the smooth functioning of society which relies on people keeping their word.
Rabbi Paul Arberman