October 31, 2022

Nedarim 3

“The Torah speaks in human terms” (דברה תורה בלשון בני אדם). This principle, which is often invoked by our classic commentaries, is mentioned more than once in today’s daf (Nedarim 3a-b) while clarifying the way in which the Torah speaks about vow-making – with the implied consequences relating to what must be said for a vow to be considered valid.

Interestingly, the concept of ‘the way the Torah speaks’ was very recently on my mind because, last night, I delivered a session to rabbis and lay leaders in Rome titled ‘Torah insights and practical tips about effective communication for rabbis and leaders’.

Of course, the literal meaning of this rabbinic statement, and the general focus of my talk, are not one and the same. In terms of the former, it comes to teach us that there are certain terms used in the Torah that should not be taken literally but which were nonetheless included to help us better comprehend certain concepts. In contrast, much of my talk last night focused on the role of verbal and especially non-verbal communication in communal leadership, and how communal leaders and community members often communicate so much non-verbally which deserves further attention.

Yet there is an overlap of the two, which is that just as the Torah goes out of its way to speak in human terms so it can be understood by the human reader, so too, those who teach and represent Torah should sensitize themselves to communicating – both verbally and especially non-verbally – Torah values in a manner that reflects their sensitivity and humanity. Simply put, in addition to the Torah speaking in human terms, such leaders should express, through the words they say and through their non-verbal gestures, that they acknowledge the challenges and vulnerabilities of the human situation, and that they are interested in providing various forms of support not just to those with spiritual concerns but also to those struggling with the most human of concerns as well.

In this article:
Share on social media:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on telegram

More articles