The Torah reading assigned for this week Parshat Mattot starts with a discussion of laws pertaining to vows and oaths or, as we call it in Hebrew, Nedarim and Shevuot. These are obligations a person takes upon oneself through the medium of a vow or an oath. The Torah looks at these as very serious obligations which the person must respect, unless he employs the halachic method of release.

The oddity here is the way these laws were conveyed. Normally, Moshe would convene the community and inform them of the law. In this instance, however, Moshe gave the order to Roshei Hamatot — the head of the tribes — to be transmitted to the rest of the community.

One of the popular reasons for this exception is because leaders are most vulnerable. They often make commitments to their constituents which they cannot satisfy and at times don’t even have the intention to fulfill. So they are the first that are told not to desecrate their word, but to do whatever comes out of their mouth.

But aside from this, it seems to me that here is a message of special importance to a Chatan and Kallah. Since our Sages say that a Chatan is compared to a King and thus, the Kallah is the Queen, they can also be considered the Roshei Hamatot — the heads of the tribes. Therefore, the lessons derived from the laws of vows and oaths apply to them particularly.

In the secular world, a marriage is referred to as an exchange of oaths. Each one of the parties takes an oath to be faithful to the other party. In Judaism we do not refer to it in this fashion, but there is no question that much is based on the verbal commitment and obligation assumed.

For instance, the ketubah is a document in which the witnesses record the words the Chatan to the Kallah that he will care for all her needs and respect and cherish her, etc. It also records that she has consented to be his wife. Obviously, her consent is a commitment on her part to do what is expected of a woman to do for her husband and respect him accordingly.

The Chatan under the Chuppah makes a verbal statement of “Harei at mekudeshet li” — “You are consecrated to me in accordance with the laws of Moshe and Israel” — which is an all-encompassing statement of a commitment to a married life based on Torah. Moreover, her acceptance of the ring represents her consent to live a Torah a lifestyle.

So even if you don’t call it as they do, an “exchange of vows,” there is definitely much verbal pledging on either side one to the other.

Now Torah says “Lo yacheil devaro kechol hayotzei me’piv ya’aseh” — “He shall not desecrate his word, according to whatever comes of his mouth he shall do” (30:3). This sounds redundant. Either it should just say that he shall not desecrate his word or that he shall do according to whatever comes out of his mouth. Why the double statement?

A Chassidic Rebbe once explained that the Torah is not talking of one who literally reneges on a pledge. That is something no ethical person would do, and it is unnecessary for Torah to discuss such an action. Rather, the Torah means the following:

Desecrating or profaning one’s word means to reduce its level of holiness. At the time one makes the commitment his word is sacred and holy. He does it with much enthusiasm, warmth and fervor. However, when it comes to actively fulfill his pledge some time later, his enthusiasm and warmth chill and the excitement wanes. The Torah thus instructs, “He should not desecrate [now] his word, rather kechol hayotzei mipiv ya’aseh” — he should do it in accordance with his excitement and enthusiasm when the words emanated from his mouth.

This is the special message of this week’s parshah to you, my dear Chatan and Kallah. You have said much to each other, and you have made a worthy commitment to each other. And when you did so, your words were permeated with sincerity, warmth and devotion. Don’t let time take a toll and ravage your love and commitment. Kechol hayotzei mipiv — like the feelings that accompanied your pledges when they were made, you should keep your words to each other sacred and fulfill them with the same fervor and enthusiasm.

I would like to conclude with a homily I once heard from a Rabbinic colleague.

In the seventh of the berachot soon to be recited we talk of hearing the voice of a groom and the voice of a bride. While this, of course, refers to the Messianic era, it can be explained as a contemporary blessing as well. During the period of courtship and engagement people act their best. They are very careful not to raise their voices, and they talk politely and kindly in order to create a positive impression. After the wedding, at times, one of the partners abandons verbal etiquette and their coarseness comes to the surface.

Thus, we bless them that the same lovely and affectionate voice which they used as Chatan and Kallah should continue to be heard in their conversation throughout their married life.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, if you will keep the word you gave each other holy, and conduct yourself with the same enthusiasm you had when you issued your words, you will merit that Hashem will be a happy partner with you and whatever [prayers and wishes that] will come out of your mouth ya’aseh — He — Hashem — will do and fulfill for you.