Yom Kippur Preparation Day Nine
Today at sundown begins the celebration of Yom Kippur. On this day nine of the Days of Awe I am considering the ninth commandment of the Ten Commandments. This commandment says, “you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.“
This won’t take long, my nearest neighbor is a half mile away and I really don’t know him all that well. So, I’ve had no opportunity to bear a false witness against him. What’s that you say, Lord, “think again.“
Maybe I should not take the English translation quite so literally and do a little Hebrew word study. I’ll start with “neighbor,” that should end my inquiry pretty quickly. The Hebrew word is רע (rea). Oh, my, that has a translation definition ranging from “husband” to “opponent.” The predominant thought is “neighbor,” but even “friend” and “another” are frequent translations. Looks like I’ll have to expand considerably those who might be affected by false witness.
I’m almost afraid to see what “false” and “witness” encompass. But I press on—time’s running out to sundown. “False” turns out to be שקר (shequer), short definition includes deception, falsehood, disappointment and emphasis on lying. Before I start pleading guilty I’ll look at “witness.”
This is quick, the Hebrew is עד (ed)—basically to see and tell. I won’t even try to consider what I hear through the grape vine and tell. I think that falls into gossip. That’s a whole other subject.
Before I left the “false” definition, I was already thinking of innuendo. I don’t right out speak falsely, but if the hearer wants to make some assumptions from what I said, isn’t that his sin? Maybe I give the impression I was a witness. Maybe I leave out a fact or two. As I said, a shading of my testimony from which I could look better, the other worse. I’m the hero, the other the villain. And, this is no longer just my next door neighbor to whom I could have been a false witness. This group now includes friends. It includes a husband, maybe a wife too. And, can you imagine an opponent? I can’t even give a little shaded information about my opponent?
As you can imagine, I have some work to do before sundown.