The Power Of Speech

From the Jewish Journal on this week’s Torah portion:

In its grandest forms, speech is the Divine gift which enabled Moshe to say to Pharaoh, “Let my people go,” and the gift which enables us, to this day, to protest injustice and decry evil. It is the Divine gift through which we are able to express love, shared hopes and communicate our vision to others.

But both the story of Bilaam and Targum Jonathan instruct us to see beyond the grand, deep, transformative moments of speech and realize that each and every time we speak, we are taking advantage of a Divine gift. In an elevator, on the checkout line, when asking our child to do her homework, when responding to a person looking for a handout, we are deploying this Divine gift that is within us. And as such, every time we open our mouths we are either affirming God’s decision to entrust us with this power, or we are proving ourselves — for that moment — unworthy and unappreciative of it.

Reb Shlomo Carlebach taught that a person should pray before each time they open their mouths. In light of the awful damage we can cause with speech, or the great blessing we can bestow with it, this is surely not a bad idea. But a more practical suggestion perhaps would be to just meditate for a split-second on the image of Bilaam’s donkey, or on Targum Jonathan, “and with [God’s] breath the human became a creature of speech.”

About Luke Ford

Raised a Seventh-Day Adventist at Avondale College in Australia, Luke Ford moved to California in 1977. He graduated from Placer High School in 1984, reported the news at KAHI/KHYL radio for three years, attended Sierra College and UCLA, was largely bedridden by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for six years, and converted to Judaism in 1993. From 1997-2007, Luke made his living from blogging. Living by Beverly Hills (, he now teaches the Alexander Technique (moving the way the body likes to move). Lessons cost $100 each and last about 45 minutes. In 2011, Luke completed a three-year teaching course at the Alexander Training Institute of Los Angeles. His personal Alexander Technique website is Luke is the author of five books, including: » The Producers: Profiles in Frustration » Yesterday’s News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism
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