You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
To bear false witness means to say something about someone that is not true.
What difference could it make if someone lies about what they saw, for whatever reason? Well, it could be the difference between life and death. The Torah says in Deut. 16:19 not to accept bribes, for they blind the eyes of the just…and later it says: we need two or three witnesses before we can put anyone to death, not just one.
How many people have been falsely accused and are in prison or in trouble with family and friends because of “false witness”?
False witness can also refer to gossip; it’s when we speak about someone behind their back to destroy their character. It’s not the same as when two people are talking about someone because they want to help them. It has to do with intention!
How often are we caught gossiping or even listening to gossip? Why is this so important that our Creator took the time to write it in a Commandment? He said that we are made in His image, referring to His characteristics not His physique. When He breathed life into us, He transferred aspects of who He is into us … the ability to reason, to think beyond instinct, to make choices, to love, to feel emotion, including fear and anger. So, when we bear false witness, we are denigrating our God.
What were Miriam and Aaron doing when they spoke to others behind their brother’s back by saying, “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” Weren’t they were questioning the leadership that God had given him and in so doing they challenged the Creator Himself and placed the seed of doubt into the others who listened? We can so easily be influenced by gossip. By demeaning anyone to lift ourselves up, we are demeaning the Creator Himself. Miriam ended up with a skin disease forcing her outside the camp alone in the desert for seven days, isolated from family and friends. That was the ultimate “time out”!
It must have been so frightening. No one could survive alone in the desert. It did give her time to think about what she had done. That was the consequence for her lashon harah, her evil tongue. What are ours?
These last 5 commandments teach us boundaries. My rabbi used to say, ‘My rights end where your rights begin.’ They may seem simple, but they are so hard to do. How often are we are tempted to talk to somebody about a person who may have said or done something to hurt us, whether on purpose or not. It’s usually because we don’t have the courage to confront the other person face to face. But if we judge them without finding out their perspective, and then we talk about it to someone else, this not only hurts us, but everyone involved. If you get caught listening to gossip, tell that person that if they don’t deal with it within one week, you will have to let the other person know because now they have involved you
If Miriam came down with tza’arat, let’s be careful, you and I…it could be that we might get sick without knowing why.
False witness, fake news, gossip – these are spiritual diseases, and they are spreading around the world as we speak.
These stories in the Torah were written for our good. Let’s do the right thing, instead of learning the hard way. It’s not what we do wrong that matters to God, it’s what we do to make things right that counts.
Let’s not judge others and then speak about them behind their backs rather let’s do what Rabbi Yeshua told us: ‘Don’t try to remove the splinter of wood in someone else’s eye, rather take the log out of your own eye.
The only way to change the world is by changing ourselves and these Ten Commandments are what we need to keep, each of us and that will multiply exponentially.