Friday, February 20, 2009

Parashah 18...Mishpatim Exodus 21:1-24:18

We Are What We Speak
"Dreams are made of an airy stuff, they exist in a world apart.
Actions, in contrast, are mortar and brick, real for all to see.
Words are the bridge from wish to reality, they possess the power to turn thin air into great cities.
But be careful, for that bridge can be traversed in both directions and rather than help build a great city, it can destroy a beautiful dream."
Words change and affect us. They concretize that which would otherwise be ethereal ideas. They are the first step in turning feelings and thoughts into reality... wishes and desires into actuality.
"Words are to ideas what actions are to words."
Actions are 'more' than words, they affect our entire being. We can well understand that a murderer, through the very act of his killing, is a changed person. The action of cold-bloodedly ending another's life deeply affects the way one feels towards others.And while murder is an extreme example, it is clear that actions do change us.
The spoken word has a far less effect than actions, but stronger than ideas. Someone who speaks of being unkind to another, is already a different person from one who holds mere thoughts of these acts.
Once we speak of a thing, it already changes our relationship to it. Jeremiah the prophet says, "Behold you spoke and you made the evil permissible" (3:5). People don't just go out and shoot people. Rather, there is a process. First they talk about it and discuss it. And little by little, it doesn't seem so bad anymore. The first step in doing anything wrong is to talk about it.
Why do people talk about it before doing it? Because "talking" is a process of desensitizing. At first, a person may want to do the questionable act, but can't. He would feel too guilty. So he discusses it.
Feelings are very sophisticated and delicate. They are not easily acquired - but are easily removed.Talking can desensitize and dilute feelings.
An example: Try and have an open discussion on the idea of spitting in your mother's face. It's difficult even to talk about it, the feelings are so strong. Though once you can freely talk about it, you are already on the path to doing it.
This does not mean we should have a 'closed' society, banning any discussion of a pre-assigned list of subjects. But it does mean there are two ways to discuss ideas. You can talk about a despicable act in a way that expresses feelings of disgust - or you can discuss it with a sense of glee.
Man is a delicate and fragile instrument - like a powerful telescope. Properly positioned, the telescope can be used to see unbelievable distances. But a slight misalignment of a lens or mirror, or a little dirt in the wrong place, can render even the best of telescopes useless. Similarly, misplaced words and sentiments can knock off-balance a human being's perception of reality - and scramble his sensitivities.
This week's parsha states:
"...and the name of other gods do not mention, they should not be heard on your lips" (Exodus 23:13).
Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg zt"l (former Dean of Yeshiva Ner Yisrael in Baltimore) points out that some things are so dangerous that they should never be discussed. If however, they need to be mentioned, then it should be only be way of allusion. Using the name of an idol - even to its detriment - changes, affects and desensitizes us. Therefore the Torah forbids it. The power of speech is such that words influence us negatively, regardless of the intention behind them.
The Torah offers many tools for preserving our purity of speech. For instance, Judaism requires of us to speak in a "clean way." It goes without saying that our language should not include obscenities or foulness. But the Torah takes the idea much further. For example, when the Torah speaks about non-kosher birds, it says "and those that are not pure." Rather than use the negative form "impure," the Torah phrases it as a "non-positive" - not pure. It is a subtlety, but to be sensitive to the beauty of life, one needs to keep one's mind clean. The method of achieving this is a clean mouth.
"Easier it is by far, to see beauty in a rose garden than to find it in the depository of refuse."
Make your mind the "garden" through the use of clean language, rather than the "depository" through foul language.
Don't talk about people, races of people, men, women, life, your day, your work, anything, in ways that you don't want them to be actualized. If you describe life in foul terms, life becomes just a little more foul.

When we look deeper into scripture, we see in James 1:21....So rid yourselves of all vulgarity and obvious evil, and receive meekly the Word implanted in you that can save your lives. Don't deceive yourselves by only hearing what the Word says, but do it! For whoever hears the word but doesn't do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror, who looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. but if a person looks closely into the perfect Torah, which gives freedom, and continues, becoming not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work it requires, then he will be blesseed in what he does.
Anyone who thinks he is religiously observant but does not control his tongue is deceiving himself, and his observance counts for nothing.

Are you wise and understanding? Then demonstrate it by a good way of life, by actions done in the humility that grows out of wisdom. But if you harbor in your hearts bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, don't boast and attack the truth with lies. This wisdom is not the kind thatcomes down from above; on the contrary, it is worldly, unspiritual, deminic. For where there are jealousy and selfish ambition, thee will be disharmony and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is, first of all, pure, then peaceful, kind, open to reason, full of mersy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocracy. James 3:13-17

Stop speaking against each other! Whoever speaks against a brother or judges a brother is speaking against Torah and judging Torah. And if you judge Torah, you are not a doer of what Torah says, but a judge. there is but one Giver of Torah; He is also the Judge, with the power to deliver and to destroy. Who do you think you are, judging your fellow human being?James 4:11-12.

Peter tells us to rid ourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy and envy and of all the ways there are of speaking against people. We are to be purified by obeying the truth, not giving into our old nature. We are not to repay evil with evil or insult with insult but repay with a blessing so that we may be blessed.

The New is fulfilling the Old....God set His creation into being by His Word and His commandments are His plumbline. Even the angels obey his Word....Psalm 103:20...Praise Adonai, you His angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His Word, who carry out His orders.

It is time to light the Shabbat candles so I will close this for now, but who knows but the LORD, He may have me expound on this somemore at a later date.

Shalom aleikem....peace be upon you!

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