Jonnie Schnytzer’s beautifully-delivered sentiments shed a preliminary light on one of the most profound concepts in the Jewish arsenal: the power of the Word as a tangible property on this earth, from Creation and unto the most miniscule of elements in our lives.

When the book of Proverbs (18:21) states “Death and life are in the power of the tongue; and they that indulge it shall eat the fruit thereof”, its assertion is based on the ancient concept of speech having a solid reifying property. Indeed, the Hebrew words Dibur (דיבור / speech) and Davar (דבר / thing) share the same root, pointing us – from the first moment of creation – to the tremendous power of the word as a founding block for the totality of our existence: “… and God said…, and there was…”. This notion has also infiltrated popular discourse far beyond Judaism itself: the famous and romantically-enigmatic magician’s call Abracadabra is, in fact, a mutilation of the original two Aramaic words that describe God’s form of creation — Abra KeDabra / “Let my speech create…”.

Albeit an idea that is most often associated with the esoteric or the mystical, its lessons first and foremost strike a chord within the ethical and moral domains. The enchanting beauty that lies in finding brute force within the intangible word is precisely one of the greatest ethical values of Jewish life, reminding us all not to take anything for granted in this world — to stand humbled by our power to mend, or destroy, a life….by words alone.

Dr. Zohar Raviv’s bio and ELI Talk, “Between Unity and Uniformity: The Many Lenses of Israel Education,” can be accessed here.