The Power of Words

While we might not break into boils when we gossip or spread rumors, it certainly can make us ugly on the inside.

Commentary on Parashat Tazria, Leviticus 12:1 - 13:59

Our words can be used to hurt others, and in doing so we also harm ourselves. When people gossip, people get hurt. Certainly the person gossiped about is hurt, but the person listening and the person doing the gossiping are also damaged. But our words can also be used for good, to help build people up instead of to break them down.

In this week’s Torah portion, Miriam is punished for speaking ill of her brother Moses. While we might not break into boils when we gossip or spread rumors, it certainly can make us ugly on the inside.

There is a story that is often told about the dangers of gossip. One version tells that a woman spreads untruths about a neighbor in her village. When she wants to make amends, she approaches an elder in the community, tells him how sorry she is, and asks what she can do to apologize. He brings her to the top of a hill on a windy day with a pillowcase full of feathers. He instructs her to open the pillowcase, and the feathers fly everywhere. He then asks her to collect the far-flung feathers. She protests, saying that it is impossible to track down each feather. He responds that so too is it impossible to undo the damage that gossip causes, for each piece of gossip told catches the wind and travels far, just like the feathers.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about where they have seen or experienced gossip.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

· Have you ever participated in spreading gossip?

· What effect did it have on the person it was about?

· What effect did it have on you?

· What would you do differently if you had the chance?

From “Values and Ethics: Torah Topics for Today,” available from Behrman House Publishers.

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