Parshat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim
The Torah’s goal is the creation of a sanctified society. To that end, we learn in this double portion - Acharei
Mot-Kedoshim - a wealth of mitzvot (no fewer than 79) that govern every facet of life. From interpersonal relationships to our relationship with the environment, from our respect for property to our position in time and space - all is sanctified to the service of
(11) You shall not steal, and you shall not deny, and you shall not lie one to another, (12) and you shall not swear falsely by My Name, for you would profane the name of your G-d; I am Hashem (Vayikra 19).
These commandments seem rather straightforward at first glance. But, note that the verses make a smooth, natural transition from the realm of the commandments between man and man to those between man and G-d. This reveals the complete nature of the Torah’s conception of society, for, while many a secular legal system prohibits stealing and perjury, only a society in which G-d is an active member can, in the same breath, forbid profaning His Name.
And you shall not deny prohibits denying that one has responsibility for something in his safekeeping (such as a loan, a deposit or a stolen item);
This last point - swearing falsely - refers to the link with verse 12:
Thus, “and you shall not swear falsely by My Name” is a reiteration of “and you shall not lie one to another.”
And you shall not lie one to another is the prohibition (§226) against swearing to the false denial, meaning that one who falsely denied that an item was in his safekeeping would violate commandment §225; if he then swore to support his denial, he would also transgress commandment §226;
The Chinnuch’s reading conforms very well with Rashi’s idea that the Torah’s sequence depicts moral decline, starting with stealing from another person and ending with desecrating Hashem’s Name.
“Why is this said? - Since it says ‘You shall not take the name of Hashem your G-d in vain’ (Shemot 20:7), one might have assumed that he is only guilty for [swearing if he uses] the Tetragrammaton. What is the source that includes all the other names [of G-d]? The verse teaches ‘and you shall not swear falsely by My Name’: any name that I have.”
One of his eleven traits is “he speaks truth in his heart”(v.2), which the Talmud says is exemplified by Rav Safra. To illustrate, Rashi quotes an incident from the Geonic work, She’iltot of Rav Achai (Vayechi, ¶36): Rav Safra once had an item to sell. A man who was interested in buying the item approached Rav Safra and suggested a price, but he did not notice that the sage was reciting the Shema. Thinking that his offer was too low, the man raised his price. After Rav Safra completed the Shema, he said, “Come and purchase the item at your first price, because I had decided to sell at that price originally.” Rav Safra valued the truth so highly that he would not take back even a mental decision.
Rejecting the truth leads to the desecration of Hashem’s Name. But, if we begin with truth in our hearts, we take the first step in building a sanctified society.
Rabbi Avraham Fischer