Words are free—it’s how you use them that might cost you!
Your words become your reality.
In 1988, Yedioth Ahronoth, one of Israel’s most popular newspapers, published an article about a murder that took place thirty years prior by a sixteen-year-old immigrant. In a fit of rage, the young man who lived in squalorous conditions in an immigrant absorption tent city, shot and killed his driver.
Now a grown man, he had worked hard to build a respectable life with a family and a business. He filed a defamation lawsuit claiming that the newspaper had ruined his life. They defended themselves by claiming that the public has the right to know. Who do you think was right?
America was stunned to see precisely such a case this week where the media paid over three-quarters of a billion dollars for defaming a company. This man wasn’t as fortunate as the courts awarded him just half a million shekel.
Many of us dismiss the act of slandering others, not even considering it a crime. After all, spoken words don’t actually hurt anyone. But the Torah refuses to accept such a position. Like the landmark media case this week, the Torah tells us of a terrible disease that would affect the property, clothing, and body of the talebearer. Because words, though free, are so incredibly costly.
Our sages tell us that words are energy. Once released to this world, they manifest in this world in ways that we didn’t intend. Thus, the Code of Jewish Law cautions us from saying things that we don’t want to experience because what starts as a sound, ends as a deed. Just like G-d created this world through His spoken words, “G-d empowered our words” as well to bear fruit long after they’ve been uttered.
In a profound sermon delivered on Shabbos, October 26, 1968, the Rebbe explained: “The novelty of speech is that it reveals that which was previously concealed within our thoughts. Hence, when we say something negative about another, we actually create a negative reality of that idea, which can easily harm that person. Had we not spoken those words, the idea would never manifest into reality and would not have affected the person spoken about at all”.
The Bible is full of examples of the potential of our innocently spoken words to become reality: When Jacob was accused of stealing his father-in-law’s idols, he swore that “the thief shall die”. He was unaware that his own beloved wife Rachel was the culprit and indeed, a short while later she died an untimely death. When Isaac was given a gift by a king to serve as a “covering of the eyes,” he became blind soon after. And when Moses threatened G-d to delete his name from the Torah if G-d wouldn’t forgive the Jewish People, his name was indeed removed from an entire Torah portion. This is also the reason why your bubbe would often say “pu, pu, pu” after someone said something negative, because she too was aware of this deep truth.
Don’t diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs. Instead of just avoiding the negative words, let’s commit to filling our mouths with positive speech. We recently marked the conclusion of the international study cycle of the entire Torah through the writings of Maimonides. You too can join the revolution as you study the Torah with Rebbetzin Chana in under four minutes a day on YouTube.com/@JewishGardens, Facebook.com/JewishGardens, or Instagram.com/JudaismInStyle
Change your words and you’ll change your world.
Be a voice, not an echo.
Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens
6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
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