Used more often than not, in many different ways, it is a part of our daily lives. It has the power to build, and the power to crush. It is the key to our success, and the key to our failure. It makes an impression on others, and expresses who we are. It is something we all know, and keep very close to ourselves. Speech.
When a baby is first born, his vocal chords have not been put to use yet, and the baby first has to learn how to use them. As he grows older, he learns how to make sounds, and then words. Soon, he can not stop blabbering away. As teenagers and adults, speech is something we use without thinking. It helps us express what we need and how we feel. Speech is just awesome! There is, however, an aspect of speech which isn't so glamorous. It is the aspect of speech that can kill a person, scare a child, and destroy a world.
A well known story of years bygone will illustrate the power of speech. It was during the day when R' Moshe got so fed up with his fellow chassid R' Dovid. In his anger he shouted to Dovid, "I will tear you like a fish!" The Baal Shem Tov, standing nearby, heard the words of his chassid and became very serious. He took hold of the hands of two chassidim standing nearby and instructed his talmidim to follow suit. As they closed their eyes, the chassidim began to scream in fright. Through the Ruach Hakodesh of the Ba'al Shem Tov, the chassidim saw how Moshe had indeed torn Dovid, as one would a fish, up in heaven. As he opened his eyes, the Baal Shem Tov proclaimed, " If one were to know the power of speech, he would be very careful with it." Although this story took place many years ago, its message stays strong. If i was holding the most powerful weapon created, wouldn't I be careful with how I use it?
Many times we speak before we think. In our anger or frustration, we tend to say things that we don't actually mean. If we'd think a bit, we would realize that we don't actually want our friend or sibling to "get lost". Although said as a joke, without meaning, it has tremendous power. The words we say affect the people around us. By saying happy and positive things, we create a happy environment. Just as I feel good when my friend compliments the way I dress, it makes me feel bad when she says the opposite. True, she is entitled to her opinion, but something negative does not have to be said. Before we speak we must think, "Is this going to build, or destroy? Do I want to let my powerful weapon loose by insulting someone, or do I want it tightly under my control?"
Words create reality. When I talk about Moshiach, I make him something real. When I tell someone about their strengths, it gives them power in that area. In the sicha of Parshas Emor, the Rebbe says how just as Lashon Hara affects the one that it is spoken about, Lashon Tov does the same. We need to think on a constant basis, "Do I want this to become reality? Is it something that will affect another in a positive way, or G-d forbid in a negative way?" If we'd each guard our tongues from from negative talk, the world would be a better place for all.
Everything in the world is easier said than done. That goes for Avoda, spirituality, and even physical things, such as guarding our tongues. I used to think that it wasn't worth it to guard my lips. After all, if I would make sure all my speech was clean, I'd end up saying just two words by the end of one long day, "Never again!" I'm not the only one who thinks this way; many people would try, but find it too hard to watch their mouths. It takes tremendous amount of courage and strength to watch over something that slips beyond our control faster than quicksand. However, after learning the power of speech, how words can even kill someone, I decided to give it my best shot. No, I do not speak only positively today. It is a lifelong struggle. However, a journey of a million miles begins with one step. This was my one step.
In Tehillim it is said, "Who is a man who wants life? Guard your tongue from bad, and your lips from speaking much." I'm not sure about you, but I want life. I want to be a person who builds, not destroys. I'm starting my journey now. Anyone want to join me?
G-d Gives and G-d takes
G-d Gives and G-d takes