When we look at the beginning of the Torah we see a phenomenon, something that took place when the world was created, that has to be explained. Because when describing Maaseh Bereishis, the Creation of the World, the Torah could have stated very simply that ‘in the beginning Elokim created heaven and earth’, and finished. That’s what it does state but those words should have been enough.
But what do we see? וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלוֹקִים – Hashem begins to speak; not that He merely willed the universe into existence. He said words: וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹקִים יְהִי אוֹר – Hashem said, “Let there be light.” וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹקִים יְהִי רָקִיעַ – Hashem said, “Let there be a firmament.” And so on. He said and He said and He said. He created by means of words.
Now, the truth is if you look in the peirush of Rav Saadya Gaon he translates Vayomer Hashem, not as ‘Hashem spoke.’ He translates it ‘Shaah Allah’ in Arabic, which means ‘Hashem willed it’; He desired it and it came into existence.
But the fact is that the Torah tells us how He expressed His will. It says black on white that He spoke words. That’s what’s written in the Torah again and again: “He said.” And we have to understand that it’s not merely a figure of speech, an idiomatic expression; there was actually an utterance. Like it states in Tehillim (33:6), בִּדְבַר ה’ שָׁמַיִם נַעֲשׂוּ – by the word of Hashem the heavens were made. And you might think ‘word’ means a thought; so it continues וּבְרוּחַ פִּיו כָּל צְבָאָם – by the breath of His mouth all their hosts. The breath of His mouth! It means all their hosts were made by means of Hashem speaking words. So the Torah is emphasizing that something was said at that time.
Now I’m not able to tell you what that speech consisted of but whatever it was, the Torah says it was a word and that word created all the heavens; and then the earth and then the light and one step after another step everything was accompanied by words. וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹקִים תַּדְשֵׁא הָאָרֶץ דֶּשֶׁא – Hashem said, ‘The earth should sprout forth grasses (ibid. 1:11). וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹקִים יִשְׁרְצוּ הַמַּיִם – Hashem said, ‘Let the waters be filled with living creatures’ (ibid. 1:20). There was a series of dicta, of commands, of words that the Creator said.
Now, that’s a puzzle because was anybody around to hear these words? There were no eardrums available yet; there were no listeners! Isn’t that a good question? So why did Hashem have to say? Let Him just will it into existence and finished.
Now I’m not going into the mysteries of this concept. Perhaps some other time we could discuss it but right now we’re interested only in the externality of this procedure – it was done by words. And that has to be explained.
Words for Consumption
Now, first we must get into our heads an important principle. If you want to understand anything about our holy books, the kisvei hakodesh, you must first consult a principle of the Rambam. He states it in Moreh Nevuchim and also in Yad Hachazakah: Whatever is said about Hakadosh Baruch Hu is only said for human consumption. It’s only said for our ears to hear because to actually speak about Hakadosh Baruch Hu Himself would be impossible. Any words used would be an entirely different language that no human being ever spoke. We wouldn’t understand it.
Can you speak to a blind man about colors? Here’s a man born blind and you’re an eloquent orator and you’re describing to him how beautiful this red flower is. And you go into raptures over the tints and the hues and explain to him the breathtaking beauty of this flower.
You’re talking to the wall! He has no concept of color at all. He can sympathize with your enthusiasm, yes. It may be contagious too; he may also becomes enthusiastic. But no matter what you’ll say he won’t ever know what it means ‘the beautiful color of a rose’.
Speaking to the Blind
And therefore when the Torah speaks to us about Hakadosh Baruch Hu it’s like talking to a man born blind. We have no idea at all about the concepts that pertain to the Deity. It’s impossible for us to understand anything because we’re talking not about something that is great, something that is very big in comprehension. No! It’s something that is entirely outside the sphere of our understanding. And just like to a blind man, red and blue and pink are meaningless; as he feels the colors with his fingers, red and blue and pink are exactly the same color to him, so too us, no words about Hakadosh Baruch Hu actually mean anything.
And so when the Torah tells us something about Hakadosh Baruch Hu, the rule is that it’s for our consumption; it means, it’s for us to learn as a way of life. Anything said about Hashem is not said because that’s how Hashem is but because that’s what Hashem wants you to think He is, so that it should be what you should aspire to be yourself.
For instance, Hashem is described as a Rachum; He has compassion. He’s merciful. But what does mercy mean? Mercy means certain emotions pass across your nerves into your mind and they change your attitude. There’s a change. You soften. You relent. That’s what compassion is.
But Hakadosh Baruch Hu doesn’t relent. He doesn’t change. Whatever He is, He is always. He always is what He is. All the good qualities, the perfect qualities, He possesses without any change at all. And therefore actually the word ‘mercy’ doesn’t apply to Hakadosh Baruch Hu at all.
Only why is He described as Rachum? Because מַה הוּא רַחוּם אַף אַתָּה הֱיֵה רַחוּם: ‘Just as He is merciful – it means just as He is described as having mercy – so too we should train ourselves to have mercy’ (Shabbos 133b). It’s for the purpose that we should emulate Him. Everything we’re told about Hakadosh Baruch Hu is said only for the purpose that we should try to feel that way in order to live that way.
Speech and Consequences
And so we come back now to the puzzle in the beginning of the Torah: What does it mean, “Hashem said”? “He said, ‘Let there be light,’ and ‘Let there be grass,’ and ‘Let there be birds’. He says and says and says. Of course, He didn’t have to say anything. His will is enough. But He spoke! What for?
The answer is that He spoke in order to teach us the immense importance of speech. How vast is the consequence of a word! When Hashem said words, things were created. כִּי הוּא אָמַר – When He said, וַיֶּהִי – it came into being, הוּא צִוָּה – He commanded, וַיַּעֲמֹד – and it arose (Tehillim 33:9).
Hashem’s speech became concretized. It became something physical and tangible; it became the world. לְעוֹלָם ה’ דְּבָרְךְ נִצָּב בַּשָּׁמָיִם – Forever, Hashem, Your word stands in the heavens (Tehillim 119:89). The heavens is the dvar Hashem. When you look at the sky, you’re seeing the words of Hashem. That’s what it is. You’re looking at a concretization of His words. וּבְרוּחַ פִּיוכָּלצְבָאָם – With the breath of His mouth, He created all the hosts of heaven, the sun and all the stars (ibid. 33:6).
Words Are Tangible
And so when it states, וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹקִים יְהִי אוֹר – Elokim said, ‘Let there be light’, Hashem is supplying us with a model of what a word means. When Hashem said, yehi – let it be, it wasn’t a word that dissipated into the air. No! It became concrete, something that was tangible!
And the Rambam is telling us that it’s written for one purpose – so that we should understand our function. If the Word of Hashem could create the heavens, then we have to realize that human beings must learn that lesson and feel that every word is of the utmost importance. And that’s why it says, Vayomer Elokim, to give us a model of what our words are, what our words are producing.
Of course we’re not Hashem, but the Torah system is מַה הוּא אַף אַתָּה – If He tells us that His words are of utmost importance then it’s for us to realize the importance of our speech! Just as Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s speech is eternal and it stands forever, our speech also stands forever. Which means when we speak, we are creating something eternal. A word said never goes lost.
Now in physics it’s true because your word is an energy. Sound is an energy. And that energy even though it is dissipated in the course of time, in a minute the sound is finished, but it’s still traveling through space. Forever and ever, that energy that you released into the world is still functioning. The word that you said never goes lost.
But not only in the sense of physics is it true that the energy of your word doesn’t go lost, but also in the sense that it’s forever in a spiritual sense. When you say one word, you must know that word is inscribed on magnetic tape, a cassette tape that will never wear out.
And it’s playing forever and ever. Like the possuk says, וּמַגִידלְאָדָםמַה שֵׂיחוֹ – Hashem will tell a man what is his speech (Amos 4:13). Not only He’ll tell you – it means He’ll play it back! On the Day of Judgment, when you come to the Next World, all those tapes that we would have liked to have destroyed – we’ll be so sorry that we didn’t destroy them – all those tapes will be brought forth and we’ll have to listen to a playback. And again and again, forever and ever, it’ll be played back over and over.
That’s a Torah doctrine, מַגִידלְאָדָםמַה שֵׂיחוֹ. You don’t say words that go lost in this world. Our words are just as tangible as any physical creations that a craftsman fashions! The words remain forever! Every word is forever and ever! All words! Good or otherwise!
Now, understanding that will make a tremendous difference in our lives because we would like to have a perfect tape to be played back. That’s why I’m careful here that people shouldn’t cough during the lecture; because it’ll be played back for years and years and they’ll hear your cough on it. You’ll be coughing for the next maybe fifty years on this tape.
All the more so when you’re recording your own tape; when you’re talking at home to your wife, you have to know there’s a tape recorder concealed. You don’t know it but it’s there and someday it’ll be played back to you because it’s something you cannot erase; so you might as well make the very best recording that you can in this world!
Now, I know that puts a heavy burden on us, a big load on our minds, but that’s the truth, a human word is of the greatest value, of the greatest consequence. That’s what we’re learning from Hashem’s words that created worlds.
We learn from the word of Hashem that every word that you say is such a weighty phenomenon, such an important item; as important as creating worlds. And therefore it becomes imperative to measure out the use of words only for the most important functions. Now, I understand that this idea is not going to take root immediately but at least let’s study it. And that’s how we’ll start out today’s session, with that idea.
Part II. Words of Wisdom
Wise and Kind Words
Now, when Hakadosh Boruch Hu said words at Maaseh Bereishis it was many many things. Trillions of creations and trillions of processes came into existence. Creation was almost infinite in its results and consequences. But the common denominator of all of Creation is גָּדְלוֹ וְטוּבוֹ מָלֵא עוֹלָם. Do you recall where that is? We say it in the yotzer of Shachris, Shabbos morning. גָּדְלוֹ וְטוּבוֹ מָלֵא עוֹלָם – His greatness and His kindliness fill the world, which means that everything in the world is made up of those two qualities; number one, godlo, which means His greatness, His wisdom, and number two, tuvo, which mean His goodness, His kindness.
How is that so? Number one, everything in the world bespeaks the greatness of Hashem because it demonstrates plan and purpose. There’s nothing in the world that doesn’t show infinite design, infinite wisdom. Of course, you have to practice up before you’re fully convinced, but after a while it dawns on you so clearly that it’s inescapable – there’s not a thing in the universe that does not demonstrate wisdom.
And the second thing that jumps out at us from Creation is tuvo, the Creator’s kindness. Wherever you turn you can see the chesed Hashem. And so these are the two common denominators that we see in the results of Hashem’s words. Wherever you look that’s how it is, you see in Creation the goodness of Hashem and the wisdom of Hashem.
Now I could spend an hour talking about that, many hours – I would love to give a long dissertation right now about godlo v’tuvo but I’ll give just one example so that we should understand this idea better. Yesterday in the afternoon I was passing by a neighbor’s front yard and I saw he had tomatoes growing there. I stopped to admire them. How did that wonderful thing happen? Can you make a tomato? Can DuPont make a tomato? Will they ever be able to do it? Never in a million years! There’s so much science that is necessary to know, so many intricate pieces of information in just a tomato seed that they’ll never know enough to create even a poor knock-off of a tomato. As much as they try they’ll never be able to replicate that machinery.
Where did the redness come from? The tomato seed had no redness in it. And that seed put into the soil is able to produce such a wonderful result, a beautiful package of food with coloring. Just to create that color – first it’s a green color hiding among the plants and then only when it’s ready to eat it turns red – that needs such wisdom, such design that the greatest chemical company in the world will never be able to reproduce something similar to that.
But it’s also tuvo. It’s His kindness. Because why does the tomato turn red? Because red makes it more appetizing. The color attracts people, it makes you more interested in eating. It’s more of a pleasure to eat a brightly colored red tomato than a tomato that has no color at all. Suppose all tomatoes looked like potatoes. You might not want to eat them. You see the Creator wants to give you more cheshek to eat it.
Hakadosh Baruch Hu made fruit beautifully colored so that you should enjoy them more. And it’s not a harmful color. It’s a beneficial color too. When you put dyes into food in most cases they’re harmful, but here is a dye that’s beneficial; besides for giving it an attractive color it’s also good to eat. It tastes good and it’s nourishing. It’s good because it’s tuvo.
And so just when you look at the tomato plant, you see right away the godlo v’tuvo, the wisdom and kindness, that the Creator demonstrated when He made this world.
I can’t help myself so I’ll give you one more example. וַיַּעַשׂ ה’ אֱלֹקִים לְאָדָם וּלְאִשְׁתּוֹ כָּתְנוֹת עוֹר וַיַּלְבִּשֵׁם – And Hashem made for Adam and his wife garments to cover their skin, and He clothed them (Bereishis 3:21).
So Rabbeinu Saadya Gaon says that it doesn’t mean that Hashem gave them garments just like that. He didn’t send angels down with measuring tape and scissors to be tailors. No, Rabbeinu Saadya learns it differently. He says that Hashem, when He created the world by means of His speech, He created all the materials that mankind needs for clothing.
That’s what it means ‘He gave them kosnos, garments, ohr, to cover their skin.’ When He said “The earth should bring forth plants”, included in that was clothing. Hashem created such plants that supply clothing. In His wisdom and kindness He made flax, that’s linen, and cotton grow from the ground. And when He said, “The earth should bring forth living creatures according to its kind,” included in that was sheep and its wool. He made wool grow on sheep.
The truth is that wool also grows from the ground because what is wool? It’s grass. The sheep eat grass and from the grass they grow wool. Now if the sheep would eat wool and he would produce wool on his back, even then it would be a miracle. You try to eat wool and produce wool. But the sheep doesn’t even eat wool. It eats grass and changes it into wool. Suppose you have a machine that you throw in grass on one end and the other end wool comes out. If I could patent that machine, I’d become a millionaire overnight. But it’ll never be patented. Hakadosh Baruch Hu is holding that patent because there’s too much wisdom there for the human mind, for human capabilities.
It’s Growing for Us
But not only wisdom; it’s tuvo, His kindness. Because what is cotton for? What is flax for? Animals don’t eat that cotton. Insects don’t eat cotton. It’ll fall into the earth and rot away if you don’t pick it. There’s only one purpose for the cotton – that mankind should take it and turn it into clothing. And the wool, who’s that for? The sheep doesn’t need that wool. And when you shear it off every season, it grows back again. What’s it doing here?
The answer is that Hakadosh Baruch Hu, in His kindness, is supplying us with clothing. All types of clothing that grow by means of a dizzying amount of miracles. And so when you see clothing it means you’re looking at the godlo v’tuvo of Hashem.
And therefore – we could give a thousand more examples – we see that Hashem’s dibbur, His words at Maaseh Bereishis, were always directed with two purposes in mind: wisdom and kindness. Hashem didn’t open His mouth for nothing, just to say d’varim b’teilim, to crack a joke or make a good comeback, a snappy retort; only for plan and purpose, for chochmah. That’s number one, that everything in Creation displays that Hashem spoke with wisdom. And the second purpose is kindliness. Everything in Creation is for chesed. Tomatoes and clothing and so on. He gives us all the things we need in order to live happily in this world.
The Wise Woman
And therefore just like He spoke that’s how we have to speak. Just like Hashem’s word, His creation, was גָּדְלוֹ וְטוּבוֹ, it’s all His goodness and His greatness, so too all of the words that we produce should be like His. Mah Hu, just like He, all of His words are chochmah v’chessed, so too that’s what we have to produce; chochmah v’chessed and that’s all.
Now, it’s no coincidence that when we consult the last chapter in Mishlei where it describes the speech of the ‘Woman of Valor’ we find that it’s these two ideals that are on her tongue. Here’s how it’s stated: פִּיהָ פָּתְחָה בְחָכְמָה – She opens her mouth with wisdom, וְתוֹרַת חֶסֶד עַל לְשׁוֹנָהּ – and the teaching, it means the doctrine, of kindliness is on her tongue (Mishlei 31:26).
Now, it’s probable that Shlomo Hamelech is talking about his own mother. He had a wise mother and he mentions her previously in the sefer so probably it’s his mother he’s talking about, her way of speaking, but either way it’s intended to be a model for all of us. I say ‘all of us’ because it’s important to note that this possuk, the lesson, is not talking only to women. Only that this was Shlomo’s mashal – we’ll see later why he chose it – but this is the lesson we learn from the dibbur of Hakadosh Baruch Hu when He created the world and it applies equally to women and men, boys and girls.
The Padlocked Peh
Now what does it say about this woman? Number one is that she opens her mouth with wisdom. Otherwise, she didn’t speak. It’s piha paschah; when she opens up, it’s like opening up a door. A door doesn’t open by itself. When you decide that you want to open it, you walk over and you open it up.
So this woman of valor when she decides to speak so she makes up her mind to open up the door and she unlocks her lips. It’s not a simple process. She won’t open her mouth unless she first consults herself, does it have to be said? And if she considers it and decides that yes, it is appropriate, so she takes the padlock off of her lips and says her words of wisdom. And then she closes the door again.
Of course such a person won’t open their mouth frequently. If you’re opening your mouth only with wisdom so there will be many occasions when the lips remain padlocked. After all, you’re thinking beforehand that maybe the circumstances don’t warrant anything to be said and therefore better to keep quiet.
The Rambam in Hilchos De’os (2:4) describes such a person: לֹא יְדַבֵּר אֶלָּא אוֹ בִּדְבַר חָכְמָה אוֹ בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לָהֶם – A wise person doesn’t shoot off his mouth; he doesn’t speak unless it’s something of wisdom or if it’s necessary. He considers, “Am I saying something wise, instructive or is it maybe necessary?” Otherwise, forget about it.
They said about Rav, a disciple of Rabbeinu Hakadosh, that he never spoke idle talk all his days. You hear such an achievement? לֹא שָׂח שִׂיחָה בְּטֵלָה כָּל יָמָיו – he never spoke unnecessary talk (ibid.). And don’t think it was easy. He had to train himself. But he succeeded. And the Rambam says, what’s idle talk? זוֹ הִיא שִׂיחַת רֹב כָּל אָדָם – that’s what most people are talking, idle talk. ‘Most people’ that’s us. It means we have our work cut out for us.
Pause and Pause Again
Piha paschah b’chochmah means that even if someone is talking to you, חָכָם אֵינוֹ נִבְהַל לְהָשִׁיב – that you’re not in a hurry to answer. If somebody asks you something, so if you’re a chochom you pause a moment before you answer. If you pause two moments, you’re a bigger chochom. If you pause all the time and don’t talk at all, then you’re the biggest chochom.
Just because you say something, I have to answer you? One wisecrack, you think deserves another? Just because you opened your mouth, I have to open mine? Maybe I’ll decide that it’s not necessary.
Sometimes, it’s necessary. Take your time anyhow. Even if you must answer, take your time and think it over. It’s an art. Be polite, friendly. Make sure you open your mouth b’chochmah.
And you’re doing it because you’re learning from Hakadosh Baruch Hu Himself. Every time He spoke it was for the greatest plan and purpose, with endless wisdom. And that’s why He did it. He created this world with words so that we should know to speak only with words of plan and purpose.
Part III. Words of Kindliness
Now we come to the second element, תוֹרַת חֶסֶד עַל לְשׁוֹנָהּ – the doctrine of kindliness is on her tongue. It means that because she opens her mouth only with wisdom so everything that this eishes chayil says, she screens for this effect: “Will it make the listener feel good? Will it make people happy to hear my words?” If not, it wasn’t said.
Now the truth is that sometimes chochmah will not make a person happy. If you have to rebuke somebody for misbehavior or warn him against a dangerous course that he’s taking in life or if he’s doing wrong things, it may not make him happy but it’s also Toras chessed. You’re doing him a great favor even if he won’t be so happy. However, in general that was the principle of this eishes chayil that before she spoke she considered ‘Will the listener become more happy as a result of my words?’ That’s the epitome of an eishes chayil.
Now, the Gemara tells us in Mesichta Brachos (48b) a secret about women. Don’t tell anybody about it but I’m going to share it with you. The Gemara says that when Shaul was coming to visit Shmuel Hanavi he asked a few girls on the road if the navi is in the town, and they answered with a long conversation. They delivered a speech: “The navi is coming here and there’s going to be a celebration in the town. There’s going to be a sacrifice, an offering, with a meal and people will not eat until the navi comes,” and so on; a whole story they said.
And the Gemara is surprised by that: Why so much talking? “Is the navi in the town now?” That was a question. So the women should have said “Yes.” That’s all that was required of them.
What Is A Woman?
So listen to the secret the Gemara tells us: לְפִי שֶׁהַנָּשִׁים דַּבְּרָנִיּוֹת הֵם – Women like to talk. That’s the answer. Now, the Gemara is not accusing anybody; it’s just stating a fact of nature. You know, when I was a boy I lived in Baltimore and in school I learned the official motto of the city of Baltimore. It was in the Italian language: Fatti maschii parole femmine. All school children knew that. Fatti maschii – to do deeds, that’s for men; parole – to talk, femmine – is for women.
Today I’m sure they’ve changed that but sixty or seventy years ago that was the motto there. Fatti maschii parole femine – to do acts, that’s for men; but to speak, that’s for women.
Now, the words of the Gemara, ‘Women like to talk’ are telling us that we should consider this not merely as a phenomenon of nature but as a creation of Hashem. It means that we disregard all the efforts of N.O.W. (the National Organization for Women, a radical feminist rights organization) to erase the effects of nature. You know that today they try to make girls play the same games as boys. And a store in Los Angeles, in their toys department they had one section for boys’ toys and another one, a separate section, for girls’ toys, and they took them to court of discrimination.
But we’ll go back to the days when nature was recognized and we’ll ask ‘Why is it that women have a nature to talk?’ We’ll recognize it as a fact of nature, a creation of Hashem, and we’ll ask why is it so?
The Slabodka Thesis
And so I’ll tell you a little Torah that they said in Slabodka. They used to say that women are a briyah of chesed. They are created for the practice of kindness; having children, raising children, running the home. They’re doing deeds of helping, of compassion, of bestowing benefits all the time. Their lives are devoted to doing acts of kindness; the entire existence of women is for chessed.
And a great portion of that chessed is by means of speech; all her life she is speaking with kindness. First to little children, she coos to them and soothes them when they’re crying; she sings to them. Her little boys and little girls, as they grow up she talks to them. She’s always talking and counseling and soothing. When little Chaim’l falls down she kisses him where it hurts, where he bumped his finger and she soothes him with words. When Chanaleh comes home from the Beis Yaakov overworked and nervous, so her mother soothes her with chessed l’shonah.
And later when she’s a grandmother she continues her career. She’s helping with the little babies of her sons and daughters and she’s pouring let’s say antiseptic on the grandchildrens’ cuts and putting Band-Aids on them; she’s applying cream on their boo-boos. And all the while she’s applying her chessed leshonah as well; and her neshamah is becoming greater and greater. Her character is expanding because she’s living up to her potential perfection.
Stay at Home, Moms
That’s a Slabodka Torah. A woman is a briyah of chessed; she’s created for the purpose of kindness. A man, he too has to use his tongue only for kindness, no less than a woman, but for her that’s her especial achievement; that’s her perfection. Sometimes women can excel in other fields but the true greatness of a woman is when she lives a life as a woman, excelling in the field of serving Hakadosh Baruch Hu according to her nature.
The truth is that’s when she’s happiest. A woman who becomes a judge you must know is a frustrated creature. When she puts on the black robe and holds the gavel in her hand she’s only acting but inside she’s not happy. For the moment she may be intoxicated by the power that she’s wielding but she can’t help feeling frustrated because her nature, her success, her excellence is in conducting a house, a family, and exercising the unique potentialities of her character: kindliness, compassion, helping.
And it was for this purpose Hakadosh Baruch Hu endowed women with the facility of speech, even more than men. It’s a fact that I’ve noticed that very few women stutter. Boys frequently stutter but girls rarely. And even men who are educated cannot express themselves as well as their wives. Women, once they open up, it flows with a faculty. They don’t lack words. They never stop to look for the right word. A man, even an orator, sometimes he’s stuck. I’ve noticed this for many years, that women, in their role as queen of the home, are more capable of speaking to their families than their husbands. Because they have the gift that Hakadosh Baruch Hu endowed them of Toras chessed al leshonah; the gift of kindliness is on their tongues.
Now of course sometimes some women are like bees. A bee brings honey but a bee also stings; and a husband sometimes would be willing to give up both things. Like it says (Rashi Bamidbar 22:12) לֹא מֵעֻקְצָךְ וְלֹא מֵדּוּבְשָׁךְ – don’t give me your sting and don’t give me your honey. But the wise woman makes it her business to deliver only honey.
Now like I said before this doesn’t mean that the function of speech, Toras chessed, is limited to women. It’s merely because this mashal of Shlomo Hamelech happens to be talking about women, because it’s an especial function for them. But otherwise it’s a mashal for everybody because we all are expected to learn the lesson from the dibbur of Hashem. The Toras chessed must be on the tongue of every person, man and woman, boy and girl, who wants to emulate Hashem with his dibbur.
Everybody needs a word of consolation, a friendly expression, a compliment. People need a lift. We don’t realize, what people need more than anything else in this world are a couple of kind words. When a man comes home tired from his day in the office or in his shop, he had so much friction with customers, with his supervisor, with others, and he’s knocked out and nervous and tired, so if there’s a wise wife at home, she greets him with a couple of nice words. “Chaim, I’m glad to see you. I made a nice supper for you today.”
Appease the Police
You don’t realize how much people crave to hear חֶסֶד עַל לְשׁוֹנָהּ. Everyone; even the Irish policeman on the corner. Don’t think he doesn’t want kind words. He may look stern standing on the corner. I once told a policeman, “People appreciate seeing you around here.”
“It doesn’t look like it,” he said. “Nobody talks to me.”
He thinks people don’t like him. All day long he’s trotting around on his horse or he’s walking the beat and nobody talks to him. He thinks people resent his being there and watching them. He’s waiting for a kind word and your function is to provide it. And if you’re obligated to the Irish policeman then surely to your wife and husband and children and neighbors. Even the rabbi of your shul; trust me, he needs kind words too.
And therefore if we’re serious about it, we have to make a resolve that going forward whatever we say will be wisdom and kindliness. And so wherever you go tonight when you leave this place – if you’ll be going home or to the beis hamedrash, wherever you’ll go – go with the resolve that whatever you say will be kindliness and wisdom.
And look for ways to practice. Imagine now you’re going to a bar mitzvah. As you come into the hall, before you pick up your place card you make up your mind: “Tonight I’m going to speak only the way Hashem taught us to speak. I’ll only open my mouth for wisdom and kindliness.”
And as soon as you come in and see your old cousin Jake, you see he’s not the same man. You didn’t see him for twenty years and he’s balding now. He put on a few pounds too. So you say “Jake! So good to see you. You look exactly like you did twenty years ago.” Ah! Jake is a new man now.
Once you get the hang of it, so you see your old aunt across the room and you walk over to her with this lesson in mind. You say “Hi Aunt Bertha! It’s unbelievable how young you look.” You made her night!
Get into the habit of making people feel good. It doesn’t cost any money. The cheapest kind of tzedakah is saying nice words. And don’t worry that it’s false and it’s flattery. If necessary, flatter too. Don’t make any mistake, you get Olam Haba for that. You’re fulfilling your function in this world.
Emulating The Creator
And if a person would always keep in mind the great principle of learning from Hashem’s words, that the tongue was created not as a weapon to inflict hurt but it’s limited to the purpose of wisdom – the wisdom of putting liniments, soothing compresses, consoling, encouraging, kind words – then our lives would be transformed into lives of achievement. Because most of our existence is lived in the world of words! Deeds are only a minor part of our lives. The major part of our existence is speech and if the speech would be utilized properly then you’re living successfully.
You’re fulfilling the great lesson that Hakadosh Baruch Hu taught us when He spoke words on the Day of Creation. Vayomer and vayomer and vayomer again and again. After all, He didn’t have to speak to Create. There was no reason for it except that we should learn from His ways. Just like He spoke only for the purpose of wisdom and kindness, that’s what we’ll try to do as well. As much as possible we’ll fulfill the great program of פִּיהָ פָּתְחָה בְחָכְמָה, opening our mouths only with wisdom, וְתוֹרַת חֶסֶד עַל לְשׁוֹנָהּ, so that only the ways of kindliness should be on our tongues.
Have A Wonderful Shabbos
Let’s Get Practical
One Minute, Wise and Kind
This week I will bli neder choose one minute every day to practice emulating Hashem’s words at Maaseh Bereishis. For one minute every day, while I’m talking to someone, I will focus on watching what comes out of my mouth. I will only open my mouth with wisdom to say words that are needed, and with chessed, to say words that will bring comfort and happiness to the one I’m speaking to.
Tapes: R-53 – Great By Silence | 154 – Career of Encouragement | 503 – Five Worlds of David | 572 – Tongue of Kindliness | 645 – Gift of Speech
Doing in this World
“Yitzy,” asked Shimmy, as the two boys headed to cheder. “Why are you bringing a clipboard with you?”
“Oh it’s because of something I read in one of Totty’s old Toras Avigdor booklets.”
“Rabbi Miller said you should bring a clipboard to cheder?” Shimmy asked, confused.
“No,” Yitzy said. “But he brings the possuk from this week’s Parsha that we say every week in kiddush. ‘כִּי בוֹ שָׁבַת מִכָּל מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר בָּרָא אֱלֹקִים לַעֲשׂוֹת – on that day Hashem rested from all of the work which He created to do’. Rabbi Miller asks what it means ‘which He created to do’? And he answers that Hashem put us in this world to do, to create, to kiviyachol take over from the work that Hashem started.”
“Okay, I understand that,” Shimmy answered. “But what does a clipboard have to do with it?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Yitzy asked his confused older brother, who clearly did not see what was obvious. “We need to improve the world. And I am going to do that by teaching everyone all of the Taryag Mitzvos – imagine how much better a place the world would be if everyone knew all 613 mitzvos by heart! Isn’t that a great idea?”
“I guess so,” said Shimmy.
“So what’s Mitzvah number 46?” asked Yitzy, taking out his pen.
“Um I don’t know – sefiras ha’omer?”
“Nope,” Yitzy said, making a mark on his clipboard. “Mitzvah 46 is shtei halechem!”
“Oh okay,” Shimmy replied not too enthusiastically. “Thanks for teaching that to me.”
“Amazing!” Yitzy exclaimed. “Now remember that and I’ll test you on it later today!”
“Um… okay,” Shimmy repeated, as they approached the cheder.
In the courtyard, a bunch of boys were throwing a frisbee around before class started. Yitzy ran towards them, his clipboard gripped tightly in his hand.
“Pinny! Chezky! Dovy!” he called.
“Good morning Yitzy!” replied Chezky as he caught the frisbee in mid-air. “Do you want to play with us?”
“No, I’ve got something much better in mind!” Yitzy said brightly.
The boys stopped playing with their frisbee for a moment. Something better? What game did Yitzy have in mind?
“What’s that?” asked Dovy with interest.
“Do you know what Mitzvah number 215 is?” Yitzy asked, looking at his clipboard.
“What?” Dovy said, confused.
“Mitzvas asei number 215,” Yitzy repeated. “What is it?”
“Uh… I don’t know, why don’t you ask Rebbe Caplan?”
“No, I know what it is – I’m asking you! It’s bris milah!”
“Okay,” Dovy said, while Chezky tossed the frisbee to Pinny, who started running to catch it. “Thanks for telling us.”
“Wait!” called Yitzy as Dovy turned to rejoin the frisbee game. “I want to teach you more Mitzvos!”
“Okay, that sounds great,” Dovy called. “Maybe during lunch!”
Yitzy walked away, disappointed that his friends didn’t seem to be as excited as he was about his new project.
“Good morning, Yitzchok. Is everything okay?” asked Rebbe Caplan as Yitzy walked past him.
“Good morning rebbe,” Yitzy said. “Yeah, everything is fine. It’s just that my friends aren’t as interested as I thought they’d be in learning all Taryag Mitzvos.”
Yitzy told Rebbe Caplan what he had read in Toras Avigdor and about his new project to teach everyone all of the Mitzvos. Rebbe Caplan listened patiently as he described what he was trying to do.
“I don’t understand how I’m supposed to make Hashem’s world a better place if nobody will listen to me,” he finished dejectedly.
“Yitzchok,” Rebbe Caplan said. “I actually remember that Toras Avigdor booklet. You didn’t read the whole thing, did you?”
“Well no,” Yitzy explained. “As soon as I read about how we have to make the world a better place I ran to get a clipboard and I made this chart of all of the Mitzvos.”
“Well, if you would have been a bit more patient you would have seen what Rabbi Miller said next. He says that the most important thing we can improve in this world is ourselves!”
“But I already know all of the 613 mitzvos by heart,” Yitzy replied.
“That’s gevaldig!” Rebbe Caplan said warmly. “But that doesn’t mean that you’re done working on yourself. Self-improvement is a lifetime avodah. It’s a job that never ends.”
“So the only thing I’ll ever get to improve in this world is myself?” Yitzy asked, somewhat disappointed.
“Of course not!” Rebbe Caplan answered. “You will find that there will be many times in your life where you can help improve things – or even other people who are willing to listen to you. But you must remember that first and foremost, YOU are the most important thing that you have to work on. That’s why we have mussar seforim like Chovos Halevavos and Mesillas Yesharim. These teach us how to make ourselves into better people, which in turn makes the world a better place.”
Have a Wonderful Shabbos!
Takeaway: Hashem created us “to do”, to accomplish change within ourselves by becoming better people.
What is Yitzy thinking when he asks someone a number? [He wants them to answer which mitzvah it is].
What is the best way to partner with Hashem in creating the world? [Laasos, to continue creating and making ourselves into the very best people we can be].