Watch Your Words

Parshat Mishpatim

Words flow so easily off of our tongues, out of mouths, that we forget how important it is to watch our words. Words are powerful. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Words are commitments.” And we are reminded in this week’s parsha, “Mi Davar Sheker Tirchak, From a false word keep distant.” Rabbi Moshe Darshan, the Magid of Kelem, teaches that a liar is worse than a burglar or a thief. A burglar, he continues, steals at night, when no one can see, while a thief steals whether it is day or night, but only from one person because he is afraid to steal from a lot of people. But a liar, he concludes, lies whether it is day or night and lies to individuals and groups. We might typically think that burglary or stealing is worse than lying, but maybe lying is worse, depending on the nature of the lie and how many people it affects. And even if we do something good, the person we lied to still feels hurt because of the lie, unless we come clean and admit it. As Rabbi Zushya from Hanipoli teaches, “One lie distances you from God immediately, and no good deed can bring you back as close as you were to God.”

So let’s watch our words in our heads before we say them out loud, and make sure that they are the ones that we want to say. And if we are unsure, we can always take the advice of Rabbi Refael from Bresht who taught on that verse, “Excessive speech leads to lies, so distance yourself from speech and you will distance yourself from lies.” Or as Mark Twain put it, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”
Shabbat Shalom
Rav Sela

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