The power of life and death is in the Tongue

This lesson jumped out at me and hit hard right between the eyes. Words mean things. Words can either hurt you or help you. G-d created the world with ten utterances. The power life and death is in the tongue.

The biggest lie told by my parents goes like this sticks and stones can break bones but names can never hurt me. LIE!

James 4:11-12 and James 3:5-12 are taken straight from the teachings of the Torah.

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The following is taken from the From “Sefer Hamitzvot in English,” published by Sichos in English

“You shall not wrong one another and you shall fear your G‑d”Leviticus 25:17.

“It is forbidden to verbally distress or humiliate another.

If a person has sinned in his youth and then repented, one may not tell him, “Thank G‑d who has taken you away from that path to this good path!” or similar indirect references to his earlier faults that may cause him pain.

[If a person is suffering from illness, one may not say (as Job’s friends did), “Has anyone perished who was totally innocent?”

If you see people who seek to purchase grain, do not tell them that they can obtain it by a certain person, who in reality has nothing to sell.

Do not enter a store and ask, “How much does this item cost?” when you have no intention to make a purchase.] “

Here is the money quote;” Our Sages taught that hurtful words are, in fact, a graver sin than defrauding another of money.”

Sefer Hamitzvot in English adds this key point;” The 251st prohibition is that we are forbidden from verbally wronging another person by telling him things that will distress and humiliate him, and make him discouraged.1 For example, when a person has sinned in his youth, but changed his ways, and someone tells him, “Thank G‑d who has taken you away from that path to this good path,” or similar indirect references to faults that cause him pain.

The source of this prohibition is G‑d’s statement2 (exalted be He), “V’lo sonu one another and you shall fear your G‑d.” Our Sages3 said that this refers to verbally causing him pain (ona’as devarim). 4

In the words of the Sifra, “The verse ‘V’lo sonu one another’ refers to ona’as devarim. What does this mean? If the person is a baal teshuvah, do not tell him, ‘Remember your previous deeds…’; if there was illness…[do not say as Job’s friends did, ‘has anyone perished who was totally innocent?’]; if you see donkey drivers…[who are seeking grain to buy, do not say that they can obtain it by a certain person, who in reality has nothing to sell and the drivers will be disappointed]; do not ask, ‘how much does this cost?’ [when you don’t intend to make a purchase, since it will cause disappointment to the seller].”

Our Sages said,5Ona’as devarim is more serious than ona’as mamon, since regarding the former, the Torah says, ‘and you shall fear your G‑d.'”6

The details of this mitzvah are explained in the 4th chapter of tractate Bava Metzia.”

Rabbi Berel Bell is a well-known educator, author and lecturer. He and his family reside in Montreal, Canada.

From “Sefer Hamitzvot in English,” published by Sichos in English.

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