Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Power Behind Words

Gossiping to a 2nd person anything negative about a 3rd person, even in the latter's absence, transgresses the Jewish prohibition of "Lashon Hara" - or "bad mouthing" (even if truth is being told). One outcome of this transgression is it empowers the evil inclination of the 3rd person! In the battle between inclinations, the bad versus the good, the bad one thereby gains some advantage, whether or not that person even knows about it.

This demonstrates the enormous power inherent in speech. (Even thought has power to influence the environment, but that's another issue.)

If speaking negatively has this power of influence, then certainly this power holds true, that much more, when speaking about somebody's good features. It is for this reason our sages coined the axiom, "When mentioning a righteous individual, invoke his praise."

Last week's Torah portion, Noah, provides an example. The 1st verse reads, "These are Noah's descendants, Noah the righteous, the pure one in his generation, always walking the path sanctioned by G-d. Noah had 3 children ...." (Genesis 6, 9). See how Torah interjects praise of Noah, just after mention of his name, before his ancestry is again addressed.

But wait, you might ask, this isn't the first time Noah's name is mentioned in Torah; In fact, twice before his name is mentioned and neither time is any praise interjected thereafter?

The Rebbe explains - the context here is important. Noah was the sole individual in his generation who walked the righteous path. This was no easy accomplishment when everyone else trangressed the Noahide laws. He was the only one going against the grain. The Torah, by injecting praise here after the mention of his name, and not before, indicates that the power delivered from verbal invocation of his praise here, where he needed it most, had given Noah's good inclination the boost it needed to dominate over his evil inclination in his struggle to walk the straight path.


  1. Not clear what the point is.

  2. Maybe Im not too clear about the mention of the praise interjected after the 3rd time. Interjection precisely THERE is to tell us that Hashem needed to give Noach a little push in the right direction (to dominate the evil inclination) and that is suggested by the interjection in Parshat Noach, which relates the contrast of Noach and the rest of the people in his generation, that HERE the interjection signifies that G-d gave him that extra push to beat off the temptation to sin too