Words Can Hurt

Behar: A resource for families.

Commentary on Parashat Behar, Leviticus 25:1 - 26:2

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me.” This ditty, often recited by kids when they are called names, is designed to protect a child from the meanness of other children. But, words, truth be told, are powerful weapons. Indeed, it would be more honest to chant: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can hurt me!” Children are especially vulnerable to the words of another.
In our Torah portion this week we are enjoined “not to wrong one another,” meaning not hurt one another with words. Instead we are to consider the effect of our words on others carefully, reflecting on the word choices we make and their impact on others. The Jewish tradition places great emphasis on not hurting another’s feelings.

It’s important to model for our children the appropriate use of language by being considerate of our children’s feelings. Harsh words and tone can hurt more often than we realize. Even when discipline is called for, it is important not to speak too harshly to our children. Our words can backfire, causing damage and retreat. Firm but kinds words can be a much more effective teaching tool than yelling, even when a child has done something wrong. In this way a child can learn kindness toward his or her friends and family.

about how words can hurt feelings and remind them to stop and think before reacting or talking.

·    Has anyone ever called you a name or hurt you with the words the person used?
·    How did you respond?
·    Have you ever hurt someone else with the words you’ve used? What other words do you think you could have chosen?
·    What other ways do you think we can learn to communicate other than by using hurtful language?

© Copyright 2010 Joyce and Fred Claar

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


Discover More

Kol Nidrei: The Power of Words

Why does the holiest day of the Jewish year begin with a dry legal formula renouncing vows?

How Parents Can Impact Your Mental Health & How to Cope

What happens when your biggest bully is your parent?“Oh, you need to go on a diet.” “Look at your grades, ...

Avoid Hurting Words

How often do we speak carelessly and hurt those we love?