Commandment #3 – Keep HaShem’s Name Holy!
Now came the voice from Moshe Rabbeinu, “Do Not Utter HaShem’s Name in Vain, for HaShem will not cleanse and forgive one who takes His name in vain.”
CRASH! SHAKE! Suddenly, the world started to tremble!
“What’s going on here?!”
“It’s an earth shattering earthquake!”
“Breaking news… we have just gotten in a report of an earthquake of epic proportions – 8.9 on the Richter Scale!”
Bnei Yisrael stood firmly and answered with conviction:
“No! We will not utter Hashem’s name in vain”.
Indeed, HaShem’s name is holy, so we must be extra special careful not to take oaths and make promises using HaShem’s name. This includes not mentioning HaShem’s name without a good reason, for example, saying the English word “G-d,” in a casual or careless manner, something that many people don’t take very seriously.
Let’s now see how Commandment #3 plays out in courts of law:
“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you G-d?”
That’s the question posed to a witness in secular courts. Once he answers, “I do,” while holding a Bible in his hand (that’s a Chumash translated in English… a Shazak Parsha book wouldn’t work), the case begins. Otherwise… this so-called witness is not allowed to testify.
Now let’s turn to the famous Rambam and see how this is handled in Jewish courts, many years before the “Do you swear to tell the truth,” of the secular courts.
Here’s what Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon wrote, over 800 years ago in his famous Mishneh Torah:
The person taking the oath holds a Torah scroll in his arm. He must stand and take the oath using Hashem’s name.
How does the court of Jewish law warn the person who takes the oath?
We tell him: Know that the entire world trembled at the time the Holy One, blessed be He, told Moshe: “Do not take the name of HaShem, in vain.”
We also tell him: With all other wrongdoings in the Torah, HaShem will forgive, as it says, (Shmos 34:7) “And He shall cleanse” Not so with taking a false oath, as HaShem says [here in the third of the Ten Commandments], “HaShem will not cleanse and forgive one who takes His name in vain.”
The Rambam now switches from expert law maker to master educator:
We must be very careful with children and train them to speak words of truth without [resorting to] an oath, so that they will not get used to swearing at all times like gentiles do. This matter is an obligation for their parents and for those who teach young children.
Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Oaths