Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Exodus 20:7
This third commandment means that the name of God should not be pronounced lightly, deceitfully or frivolously. So, for example, swearing an oath on the Bible, and then giving false testimony, carries an extra degree of turpitude.
Jews have a strict prohibition on pronouncing the four letter name of God represented in English as YHWH. Only the High Priest was allowed to pronounce it in the inner sanctum of the Temple in Jerusalem on the Day of Atonement, and its accurate pronunciation has now been lost in the mists of time.
But, as you may have suspected, there is also a subtle meaning to this commandment. In the Bible and indeed in Sanskrit one of the names of God is I AM – Aham in Sanskrit. And this is not just God’s name, but everyone’s name. Everyone when speaking of themselves, says “I am …” and then adds an attribute.
We know only too well that we all have strengths and weaknesses, but one meaning of this commandment is that we should take care when describing ourselves, to reflect the beauty, majesty, power, intelligence and strength that, along with our failings, are part of our inherent nature. This commandment, therefore, reminds us to acknowledge the dignity and stature we all share by reason of our humanity; and that we should be careful how we speak about ourselves, and, by extension, others.
Speaking of natural dignity, beauty, intelligence and strength, we were honoured last Wednesday by a veritable inundation of Grandparents, for a wonderful celebration of family warmth and love. It was a great day and a credit to everyone involved.