The Torah states: “Moses spoke to the heads of the Israelite tribes, saying, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: when people make vows or take an oath, they shall not break their pledge; they must carry out all that has crossed their lips.’” (Numbers 30)Commentators ask, “Why did Moses speak to the heads of the tribes? Why did he direct his words to the leaders and not all the people?” And like most rabbis, they answer their own questions.
The Hatam Sofer, a leading nineteenth century rabbi, responds: “The reason is that leaders often make all types of promises which they don’t keep. Because they often go back on their promises, this warning was aimed specifically at them.”
Leaders should be the most careful with their words. They should be more careful than everyone else.
The Torah’s counsel remains even more relevant today. Its teachings are a reminder of the power of what we say, and promise, and the importance of keeping our word.