Power of Speech

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The Power of Speech
The tongue holds the keys to life and death.
One man spread a rumor about another. He later felt regret, and went to the rabbi to ask how to make amends. “Go to the store and buy a bag of seeds,” said the rabbi, “then go to a big open field and scatter the seeds into the wind. Do so and report back to me in a week.” (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin).
The man did as he was told, and came back the next week to find out what to do next. “Now,” said the rabbi, “go back to the field and pick up all the seeds.”
“But,” the man protested, “those seeds have scattered far and wide! I’ll never find them all. Many have even already taken root!”
“Exactly,” explained the rabbi. “Now you understand. When we speak badly about another person, the effect is far and wide. And it is damage that can never be fully undone.”
To Build or to Destroy
What is mankind's unique advantage over the animal kingdom? Man is certainly not the fastest or strongest creature. Recent studies of dolphins and other animals suggest than man may not even be the most intelligent of creatures. Yet man possesses something that no other creature in the universe has – the ability to creatively communicate. While other animals can communicate as a survival mechanism, none but mankind can express a philosophical query.
The Torah says that when God blew a soul into Adam, he became a "speaking being" (Genesis 2:7). The driving force of humanity is verbal interaction. This is why the Torah so strongly emphasizes the need to guard our unique attribute of speech.
Speech is the tool of creation, as in: “And God said, ‘Let there be light’ “ (Genesis 1:3). Through speech we can build individuals – with praise and encouragement. By making others feel important, we build them up, as if to say, “Your existence is necessary.” This is life-giving and life-affirming.
One of the great American rabbis of the past…...

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