Photo Credit: Courtesy AI-generated Parsha image

Moses addresses the leaders of the tribes of Israel. He instructs them as to the laws of vows. He instructs them about literally, “what comes out of your mouths.” The Bat Ayin on Numbers 30:2 connects the fact that Moses is addressing the leaders of the tribes to a person’s ability to control their mouth.

It seems that Israel’s judicial, military, and most likely political leadership during their years of wandering in the desert was organized in a hierarchical system, as initially proposed by Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro. Back in the Book of Exodus, shortly after the nation of Israel is miraculously freed from Egypt, crosses the Reed Sea and camps out at the foot of Mount Sinai, Jethro gives Moses much needed advice. He saw Moses attending individually to every single person in Israel, tells him it’s unsustainable and recommends a hierarchical meritocracy. Moses implements Jethro’s plan and establishes the roles of Captains of Ten, Captains of Fifty, Captains of One Hundred and Captains of One Thousand.

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The Bat Ayin suggests that a person achieved a higher rank based on their ability to control their mouth. Those who exhibited the greatest control over what they said, how they said it, when they said it, to whom they said it, and perhaps most importantly, what they didn’t say – those people merited the highest rank within the leadership of Israel. The less prudent, less sensitive, less cautious and less circumspect a person was in their dialogue, the lower their rank, and ostensibly, those with little control of their speech were not given any positions of responsibility.

However, the control of their tongue was a product of their awe and reverence of God. The stronger a person understood their divine responsibilities and obligations, the more a person sought sanctity and transcendence. The more they used their powers of speech for noble and holy purposes, the more they were elevated.

May we always use caution and deliberation in what we say and achieve greater levels of divine connection.

Shabbat Shalom

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Rabbi Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay. He is the author of over a dozen books on Torah themes, including a Biblical Fiction series. He is the publisher of a website dedicated to the exploration of classic Jewish texts, as well as TweetYomi, which publishes daily Torah tweets. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.