Something to Remember
In life, we've all been victims of hurtful speech. The Torah takes a particularly strong stance in this area. In fact, the Ramban (1194–1270) insists that there is a requirement to recite Deut. 24:9, each day, in order to remind ourselves daily of the need to speak with sensitivity.
In ancient times, one who spoke maliciously would be struck with the skin malady of Tzara’at and be banished from the camp. What is fascinating is the slanderer would also be infected with a Tumah (spiritual impurity) reserved only for a corpse. What connection is there between these two images?
The Torah is teaching that the most famous maxim, “sticks and stones may break my bones... but words will never hurt me” - is wrong. Words not only hurt but they can kill. Destroying a person’s self-esteem, or self-worth, is analogous to murder. The very first Biblical image is God creating worlds through the power of speech. Syllables have incredible potency. A lesson well worth remembering each day.
Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Green