“You shall not swear in the name of the Lord,” says the Torah. This is true even if what one is saying is the truth.
There once was a rich man who never swore during his entire life. When he was on his deathbed he summoned his son and said, “My son! You must never swear, whether it be the truth or a lie. The reason that I am so rich is because I have never profaned G-d’s name by swearing. The Almighty, seeing how careful I was in not swearing, made me successful in all my undertakings.”
The son answered, “Father! I promise that I will be careful and not swear.”
After the father passed away, swindlers came to the son and said, “You owe us a lot of money. Your father had borrowed money from us and never repaid it. Now you have to pay it back!”
The son, taken aback, answered, “That is a lie!”
The swindlers hauled him to the courthouse where he was ordered to swear.
The bewildered son thought, “If I swear, I will be profaning G-d’s name and I will also break my promise to my father.”
The son thereupon gave all of his possessions to the swindlers. The vicious swindlers eagerly accepted the money but then informed him that they were still short 10 gold coins. This the poor son did not have.
The swindlers then said, “Pay us the 10 gold coins that you owe us or swear that you have no money left with which to pay it.”
The son answered, “I didn’t swear before and I won’t swear now!”
The swindlers then imprisoned him, saying, “You will remain in prison until your debt is paid.”
The son’s wife, a righteous woman, was too embarrassed to ask for help. So she would take other people’s clothes to wash and with the money she would earn she would support and feed the small children and her husband, who was being held in prison.
One day the wife and her little children were at the river washing clothes when a large ship passed by. When the ship’s captain saw how hard she worked, he called out to her, “Wash my clothes for which I will pay you a gold coin.”
The young wife, who needed just one more gold coin to free her husband, took the coin and gave it to her children to hold. She began to do the captain’s wash when suddenly the captain abducted her and took her aboard his ship. He then ordered the ship to leave.
Her children, who were standing nearby, were shocked at the kidnapping of their mother and began to scream and cry.
Realizing that their crying was to no avail, they quickly returned to the town and freed their father with the gold coin.
They then told their father about what had happened to their mother, “Mother was kidnapped by the captain of a ship who was headed out toward the sea.”
The man looked up to the heavens and cried, “Blessed be the Name of the Almighty, King of kings. I have been left without any belongings and without any support. Creator of the world, please be merciful towards me and my small children.”
Afterwards, he took his children to the seashore where he began to build a small boat. He then placed a sail upon the boat and he set out on the sea where he traveled until he reached a foreign land.
In this strange land, the man became a shepherd, leading flocks of sheep for people. Meanwhile, the other children, who were left behind on the river shore, sat and cried. A passing ship, noticing them, took them as prisoners.
One day, the devout man sat by the shore of a river that contained poisonous snakes and sharks. He reminisced how, at one time, he was rich and now he had so many hardships and was poor. He raised his voice in a plea, “Creator of the world! I have been left without a wife, without children, without money and there is no one who has mercy on me. You know that death is better than such a life.”
He then wanted to throw himself into the water. Suddenly, a voice rang out and said, “Fear not my son. A treasure lies here for you to take. It has been buried here for many years. You will become rich again because you have refrained from swearing. It is also pleasing that you have kept your promise to your father.”
The voice then told him where this treasure was located. With the gold and silver, he hired workers who built huge houses and large cities, and he became a king. With its vast riches, he was able to find his wife and children, whom he redeemed. He aided the poor and was beloved by all.
Rabbi Sholom Klass