The sages called us “the speaking being,” saying that our soul is filled with words. When our words leave us, our very being goes out within them. We conquer with them. We declare our mastery over Creation with them. Our words tell us that we exist.
For us, nothing truly exists until we find a word for it. All our thoughts of every object and every event are thoughts of words. Our world is a world not of sensations and stimuli, but of words.
Build your world with precious words. Fill your days with words that live and give life.
Memorize words of Torah and of the sages. Have them ready for any break in your day. Wherever you go, provide that place an atmosphere of those powerful words.
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Life in Words”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. -James 3:7-12
People are very careless with their words. Even the best among us tends to slip in what we say from time to time. More often than not, these “slips” are an indication of the difference between how we publicly present ourselves and what we’re really thinking and feeling inside. In that, we use our words, not to represent the person we are, but the person we want others to believe we are.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:5
Yes, we are supposed to “take captive every thought”, but that’s easier said than done. As we see from both Rabbi Freeman and James, words are extremely powerful and have tremendous impact, for good or for ill. Words of Torah, kindness, and compassion are wonderful and can change the world around us for the better. But if we use the same mouth to utter words of praise to God, yet speak curses to men, what are we telling people about our inner being and what are our words allowing to become “real” in the world?
Taming the tongue and the mind that generates our words takes a lot of discipline. But there are rewards:
If you see someone’s faults hanging out and you truly want to help—whether it be a friend, a spouse, your child, or even your nemesis—don’t say a word about what you have found wrong.
Find something wondrous about that person, perhaps something that nobody ever mentions, and talk about it—to yourself, to those who will listen and sympathize.
In very little time, you will see such a new person, you will believe you are a maker of wonders.
Indeed, we all are.
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. -1 Thessalonians 5:9-11
Our words create wonders and even miracles in other people, if we choose them carefully. It’s amazing to think that something as simple as a word spoken by a single human being could be so powerful. Yet if our words can possess such might, remember that with a word, God created the universe:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. -Genesis 1:1-4
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm. -Psalm 33:6-9
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. -John 1:1-3
The words of God are immense, and when they reach the hearing of man, it is no small and simple thing:
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” -Exodus 20:18-19
And yet when God speaks, His words are always for our benefit. God gave the words of Torah at Sinai to the Children of Israel, and the Torah detailed every aspect of the Jewish lives as a unique community. But there are so many “words”:
But why so many mitzvos? Why so many dimensions to Torah? We have positive and negative commandments. The mitzvos also include logical laws, logic-defying laws, and everything in between. We have intellectual mitzvos, emotional mitzvos, agricultural mitzvos, business mitzvos, mitzvos dealing with food, dress, housing, and family life. The Torah include every medium of teaching known to man: stories, legal codes, numerological calculations, history, philosophy, ethics, poetry, metaphorical and mystical works.
Ethics of Our Fathers commentary
Elul 22, 5771 * September 21, 2011
It is said that God made man because He desired to dwell in “the world below”, in our world. To prepare the world, He gave the Torah to the Children of Israel, His “light to the world”. However, for God to truly inhabit our realm, “then the Divine presence must permeate its every aspect.” Man must be refined by the word of God “down to his every element and component” so that the human life will “become a vehicle for the fulfillment of the Divine will.”
While the Torah as given at Sinai was not expected to be placed upon the shoulders of the rest of humanity, not even the non-Jewish disciples of the Master (see Acts 15), we are not left wanting in this regard. That said, it isn’t always clear what are the specifics of Christian obligation to God. Put another way, if the Torah is the Word of God to the Children of Israel, is there a separate “Word” for Christianity?
The “official stance” of the church is that the Law (Torah) has been wholly replaced by the Grace of Christ for everyone (Jewish and Gentile Christians) and the Law is therefore irrelevant. The “One Law” branch of Messianic Judaism declares that Jewish and Gentile believers are equally obligated in lifestyle to all of the 613 commandments that typically believe constitutes the Torah. Jews (including many Messianic Jews) see Gentiles (Christians and otherwise) as being obligated to only those “words” spoken to Noah in Genesis 9, commonly referred to as the Seven Noahide Laws (although some in the Messianic community believe this is modified for Christians by the Acts 15 letter specifically and by the teachings in the Gospels and Epistles generally). Most people settle on “the system” that works for them. Some of us continue seeking His will daily.
Both Jews and Christians spend all their lives looking at the Bible, reading, studying, and gleaning insights from inspired teachers and Rabbis. We’re trying to understand who we are and who we are supposed to be in the eyes and words of God. What are the commandments of God for our lives? How are they different from person to person? How are they different from generation to generation? How are they different between Jew and Christian? How can we teach others what we are always trying to know in ourselves?
The Word of God and the words of men are tremendously important and powerful. But while God is not careless with His Words, men most certainly are. The Word of God is wielded with great care lest disaster should strike existence. If man would utilize an equal amount of care over his words, how blessed we would be, for in speaking kindness, charity, compassion, and words of Torah, we would re-make the world in His image.
So shall it be in the days of Messiah.