Elul 7, 5779
September 7, 2019
In the beginning of the Torah, God creates the world with words. God says, “Let there be light,” and there is light. This story is a reminder of the power of words. Words can be used to create. They can also be used to destroy. We would be wise to think more about the power of our words in our own lives (what does negative self-talk do to our self-esteem?) and in the lives of other.
From our Sources
Speech is one of the defining features of humanity. It is a powerful tool that creates connections…. At a deeper level, speech enables us to reveal our innermost feelings and our shared objectives.
But speech can also be very destructive. In a moment of frustration or anger, we can wound someone to the quick; we can gossip or slander and ruin someone’s reputation. Sometimes, in a loving effort to be helpful, we say the wrong thing and make matters worse.
Often our first responses are not the ones grounded in wisdom. When we do speak, we would do well to be aware of our objective. Is this the right moment to voice a criticism or make a suggestion? Perhspas what is called for is what Rabbi Nachman of Braslav called
, words of encouragement.
And when we have the urge to speak badly of a third person, we should refrain. Are we doing this in order to build a rapport with our conversation partner at the expense of the third? There are more wholesome ways to build a rapport. Are we doing this out of anger? Anger will subside, but the words we have spoken cannot be recalled. Better to be silent until we understand our motivations and think through the best ways to act on them.
-Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
In what way do you struggle with cultivating mindful speech?
In refraining from slander?
In withholding unwanted advice or critiques? In interrupting others?
In what circumstances do you tend to less mindful of your speech?
To whom might you owe an apology based on careless words?