The Talmud1 says the entire world trembled when G‑d said, "You shall not take the Name of G‑d, your G‑d, in vain." What message was the Torah conveying that caused the entire world to tremble?


A story is told of a group of brothers who came to America and went into business together. A few years after arriving, they arranged for their parents to emigrate. The father was a pious, observant Jew, with a beard and chassidic garb. After a short time, the father shaved off his beard and traded in his garb for modern attire. Puzzled by their father's behavior, the sons consulted his rabbi.

When the rabbi asked the father why he changed so drastically, he told him the following. "My sons have a large meat market, and they have me sit at a table in the market. When people saw me, it encouraged them to make their purchases with the confidence that everything is kosher. However, I soon realized that the meat they were selling was not kosher and they were using me to deceive the public. I therefore decided to shave off my beard and change my garb, which represented my Judaism, so as not to help them sell non-kosher meat."

Unfortunately, throughout history, the nations of the world have persecuted and tortured Jews under the guise of doing it for the "sake of Heaven (G‑d)." They claimed that the Jews are to be blamed for society's problems and deserve to be oppressed. Also among Jews it is unfortunately common for one person to hurt another while claiming that "it is a mitzvah" to do so.

G‑d's command "Do not mention My Name in vain," may be interpreted as, "Do not exploit My Name" — Torah and religion — as a means of justifying your iniquities. Do not attempt to cover them up with a veil of righteousness and virtue.

This poignant Divine message put a shiver through everyone, and the entire world trembled in fear.