Words

by Deanna Chart

Words was the talk given by Deanna Levine, in loving memory of her wonderful parents, Cissy & Ellis Levine and very special brother, Ian (zl).

 

What follows is based on the writings of Rabbi Label Lam, who is both a Rabbi and a Poet.

 

First, I'd like to give you some biblical quotes:

 

If a man makes a vow to G-d or swears an oath that he will do or not do something, he shall keep his word and not desecrate it; according to whatever comes out of his mouth he will do. (Bamidbar 30:3)

 

Blessed is He Who Spoke and the world came to be. Blessed is He Who says and does. Baruch She'amar- Morning Liturgy)

 

And here are some modern equivalents:

 

Words are the most powerful intoxicants known to mankind. (Rudyard Kipling)

 

"Don't talk of love! Show me!" (Song from the musical, "My Fair Lady")

 

There are some words that can make a real difference. Words of kindness, support and consolation; words that enlighten, enliven and entertain; words that share good news, that uplift, that make the world a better place. From a Jewish perspective words are hugely important; the universe was built with them, and woe betide anyone who makes a habit of misusing them.

 

Speech is one of those human functions that we can all too easily take for granted. Yet it is one of our most distinctly human features. It raises us above the animal kingdom. With words alone we can build or destroy. Yet words fly around cheaply like fallen autumn leaves or fly around in the wind like feathers that come out of a pillow that's been shaken.

 

Don't you think that it's important for our words to be matched by our actions in order to have value? Here's a negative example. A doctor who gave a really powerful presentation about the risks to health of cigarette smoking was later seen smoking cigarettes. His audience was disappointed. That's not the example of matching words with actions. Our great Sages were living examples of their very own speech. Perhaps that's why their words continue to have meaning down the generations.

 

Our words represent what we do, who we are and how we are perceived. For example, when we say, "Thanks a million" with half a heart, then two words ("a million") have just been seriously discounted. The holiness of our words is in direct proportion to our very actions. If our words don't mean much to us, why should they be valued by anybody else?

 

Our sages said that because of the power of words, we were created with two barriers to the mouth....lips and teeth! So next time we open our mouths to speak, perhaps we should think more carefully about the significance of our words, their consequences, and the impact they can have on others.

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