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Your Words Have Power- Devarim

Unleash that power by thinking before you speak

Your Words Have Power- Devarim
This week, we begin the Book of Devarim for our weekly Torah portion. The word ‘devarim’ in Hebrew letters can be split into two words ‘davar’ and ‘yam’, which literally means word and ocean. What’s the connection?

The Medrash states, “Words, like the ocean, can be stormy or calm. An evil mouth, like turbulent waves, can destroy and kill. A sharp tongue, like deep water, is feared. Good words, like pearls on the ocean floor, are precious…”

Another word that’s similar to ‘devarim’ is devorim which is Hebrew for bees.

Picture the following scenario:
You’re with a group of friends and say a “good line” at your friend’s expense and everyone is rolling in laughter. Your friend, the brunt of your joke laughs along not to look like a bad sport. Yet, your comment hurt him like a bee sting.

The wisest man of all times said, “Gentle words of the wise are heard but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz states, “Words should not be confused with weapons - they are much more powerful.”

Here a few quotes about the impact of our words:

“Words are free. It is how you use them that may cost you.” “Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” “The tongue has no bones but is strong enough to break a heart. So be careful with your words.” “Be careful what you say. You can say something hurtful in ten seconds, but ten years later, the wounds are still there.” “Don’t mix bad words with your bad mood. You’ll have many opportunities to change a mood, but you'll never get the opportunity to replace the words you spoke.” “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” “…people will forget what you said, will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” “Open your mind before your mouth.” “Be careful with your words. Once they are said they can only be forgiven not forgotten.” “Speak in such a way that others love to listen to you. Listen in such a way that others love to speak to you.” “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”
What is the torah
The philosopher Rumi says, “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” All we do when we raise our voice is get the other person to shut down and stop listening. Remember, it’s our words - the tone, tenor, texture and inflection of our speech that make it effective and meaningful, not the volume.

Just how powerful are our words? Here’s a story that illustrates this point:

A man came to Rav Chaim Kanievsky and asked for a blessing on behalf of his sick mother. Rav Chaim blessed her with a complete recovery. The visitor was not satisfied with this and said, “I cannot bear to see my mother suffer; I am willing to accept my mother’s sickness upon myself if she will only recover.” Rav Chaim reacted strongly. “Do not speak like that! Say, rather, that you will study Torah on her behalf.”

As soon as this visitor left, a man entered Rav Chaim’s study with dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep and stress. He told the following tale. “Last week, I wanted to take a day off from work. With no way to convince my boss to let me off, I told him that my grandmother had passed away suddenly. He graciously granted me a day off. Two days later, my grandmother, who had been completely healthy, suddenly passed away! Since then I have had no rest. Did I cause my grandmother’s death?” Rav Chaim spoke to him severely. “You acted very foolishly. Our sages teach that ‘a covenant is formed with the lips’: the words that a person says have a profound effect and therefore he must be very careful about what he says. Now, you should study Mishna for your grandmother’s soul for the next year, and with this G-d will help you.” The man left and Rav Chaim turned to his family members who were in the room. “Where is the man who said he would accept his mother’s illness? Tell him to ask this second person how careful a person must be with his speech!”

The ‘Sefer Yetzirah’ (Book of Creation authored by our Patriarch Abraham, containing secrets of creating the world) tells us, “G-d placed creative powers in the mouths of man which resembles G-d’s own power of speech. Similar to G-d, when a person speaks, his words create spiritual forces.” As Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai says, “Every word a man utters rises upward, splitting the heavens to reach its destined place.” In fact, the Bnei Yissachar states that every person is granted a certain amount of words to speak during his lifetime, except for those pertaining to Torah and mitzvoth. Thus, every person can add some years to his life by carefully choosing what to speak about. As Amos says, “He [G-d] recounts to a person the words he spoke.

Therefore, the next time before you speak, THINK:
T – Is it True?
H – Is it Helpful?
I – Is it Inspiring?
N – Is it Necessary?                                          
K – Is it Kind?
Treat your words like gold. They’re more valuable than you think!
This article is dedicated in memory of Berinah Z’latah bas Reuven Yitzchak z”l