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  • Writer's pictureRuth Schapira

Sorry! j/k, lol....

Perhaps we can understand the following by examining how a pendulum works. In this era of constantly expanding communications (posting, tweeting, pinning, texting, and instagramming) we are swinging back from that, moving in the opposite direction by contracting our understanding of each other. We have more outlets for what's on our minds than ever before, yet we comprehend each other less.

Our texts and speech are peppered with so many phrases that offer little in the way of understanding, but instead our words serve the moment. When words capture too much time, we seek to defer to visuals. I am not immune to this trend. I am guilty of scrolling through endless rounded faces, looking for just the right sad face to include in a message.

As if to confirm the losing battle of communicating with words that matter, there are social media platforms which are successful with users precisely because texts, pictures and video disappear after just a few seconds.

Words used to be subservient to ideas and concepts. Now, it seems that methods of communication are subservient to ego.

I'm from the generation that used a real keyboard, a typewriter, that you loaded one precious paper at a time. You couldn't erase what you typed, so every word had to be carefully thought out beforehand. If you made a mistake, it took twice as long to remove the error as it did to type it in the first place (you used a liquid substance called "white-out" or the more advanced "correcto-tape"). Erasable paper was a huge advancement in this process. And in hindsight, perhaps erasers in general, with the ability to actually make words disappear was not the best invention.

In the Hebrew Bible / Torah, the word engraved is used to describe the way in which the Aseret HaDibrot /Ten Utterances / Ten Commandments were formed:

The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing, incised upon the tablets. Exodus 32:16

וְהַ֨לֻּחֹ֔ת מַעֲשֵׂ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים הֵ֑מָּה וְהַמִּכְתָּ֗ב מִכְתַּ֤ב אֱלֹהִים֙ ה֔וּא חָר֖וּת עַל־הַלֻּחֹֽת

This is a beautiful teaching. According to Torah, words are not just words, but permanent statements of an everlasting bond. Words are more than just letters and inherently have substance (in Hebrew, davar means both word and thing).

We have lost our way with our speech, for which there are more laws about in the Torah than any other. Think about that for a minute. The idea that you could destroy a person with your tongue, was recognized thousands of years ago as a deep sin and betrayal.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs / Mishlei 18:21
You must not carry false rumors... Exodus / Shemot 23:1
Guard your tongue from evil, your lips from deceitful speech. Psalms / Tehillim 34: 13 -14

What I'm sharing with you might not strike you as new information, but I will persist because we are living in an age where speech has simultaneously become almost irrelevant and on the other end of the spectrum, exceedingly fraught with emotion.

The charge of micro-aggression can be leveled against someone who mistakenly uses the wrong pronoun.

The golden mean is that we need to be able to control what comes out of our mouths as much as we control what goes into them.

We are bombarded with one eating plan after another, with trend upon trend regarding foods that are healthy and good to eat, but what is actually beneficial for us as well is to guard what we say. Just as eating bad food accumulates in our bodies, speaking without regard for consequences builds layers of damage to our soul. The physical toll that comes from bad habits is not evident in our bodies at first, and the same is true for our inner self, which sustains losses whenever our tongues let loose.

We need to hit the pause button to allow ourselves time to think before we speak.

We can train ourselves, in time, to change our habits. When I read stories about our great sages, masters of character development, I am brought to tears over the way they agonized over their speech and the impact it would have before even uttering a word. Surely, a slighter degree of this behavior is within our reach. We can take a few moments to see if we really need to speak in the first place.

Is what I'm about to say additive? Has someone else already said it, albeit in a different way?

Will what I am about to say elevate the conversation? Will it add some truth? Will it be uplifting to those listening?

If every word coming out of my mouth was made of a precious stone, would I easily release it?


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