(As explained in Day 31, this segment is based on Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, Shaar HaZechirah ch. 7)
Lashon hara is harmful to the neshamah in a way that other sins are not. When, for example, someone sins with his hands (for example, he hits someone), he causes a ruach hatumah (spirit of impurity) to come upon his hands. However, as Zohar states, when someone speaks lashon hara, he brings a ruach hatumah upon his entire body.
Why is this so? Why is lashon hara so destructive? The answer is that the power of speech is what defines us as human beings. It is an expression of our intellect, of what distinguishes man from beast.
On the words “And man became a living being” Targum translates, “And man became a speaking spirit.” What we speak is what we are. Therefore, when we speak forbidden words, we contaminate, in a spiritual way, our entire being.
But it works both ways. When a Jew uses his power of speech for Torah study, it causes a spirit of kedushah (holiness) to rest upon him. This brings healing to both body and soul.
There is an expression: “Talk is cheap.” This is an American expression, not a Torah one. In Jewish life, words are very powerful.
We can gain an insight into the power of speech from a word that the average Jew recites millions of times in his life — “Amen”. Our Sages teach that answering “Amen” to a berachah is greater than reciting it. The reward for responding “Amen” even once is unfathomable. And with proper intent, responding “Amen” to a berachah is considered as if the person actually carried out the mitzvah himself (as when one fulfills his obligation to recite Kiddush by listening to its recital and then responding “Amen”).
The Gemara states, “The berachah of even a simple person should not be unimportant in your eyes.” There are countless stories of people who witnessed great yeshuos (salvations) for having children, being healed from illness, or finding their shidduch (marriage partner) after receiving a blessing from someone who, apparently, was a “simple Jew.”
Once, a baby boy was born with life-threatening complications. On Friday morning, doctors told the father that the baby did not have much longer to live. The father consulted the great tzaddik Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal of Manchester, and asked whether or not there should be a shalom zachar celebration that night.
“Absolutely,” the Rosh Yeshivah replied. “At a shalom zachar, everyone wishes the father ‘Mazel tov!’ and offers a blessing that the child be raised to ‘Torah, chuppah and good deeds.’ For these blessings alone it is worthwhile to have a shalom zachar.”
The shalom zachar was held. To the doctors’ amazement, the complications cleared up and the baby had a complete recovery.
Our words have enormous power. Let’s use them right.
IN A NUTSHELL
Never underestimate the power of words.
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