Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Chukas

The War of the Words

The Torah invests a great deal of worth into the power of speech. Though we read in Pirkei Avot that "words spoken are not as important as deeds performed,": the Torah nevertheless constantly emphasizes the importance of the spoken word. Improper speech, slander and obscenity are terrible abuses of the gift of speech. The Torah rates speech as the one quality that truly separates humans from the animal kingdom. Speech can console, comfort, advise, persuade and inform. It is the primary method for educating and communicating with others. Speech can be holy and it can lead to reconciliation, compromise and understanding between humans, even amongst former enemies. On the other hand, force, even when justified and necessary, rarely settles matters or increases understanding and wisdom. Force is to be employed only if speech fails. The Torah tells us that even in war, the Jewish army entering the Land of Israel was "to call out for peace with its enemies" before embarking on military action. Of course, speech is not a surefire winner all of the time and without some use of force or threat of force, security and progress cannot occur in a complex and dangerous world such as ours. But Churchill's line about the UN - "It is better to jaw, jaw, jaw than to war, war, war" - certainly retains its place in the truisms of history.

Moshe admits at the beginning of his mission of leading the people of Israel that temperamentally and physically he is not a person of words and speech. Yet his greatest successes and achievements occur when he follows the Lord's command and speaks to the people of Israel and to Pharaoh. Moshe is not only the giver of the written Torah to Israel but he is the master teacher of the Oral Law - he spends the last forty years of his life speaking, teaching, explaining, and guiding. For this reason, it is clearer to us why he was punished for striking the rock in anger to bring forth its waters rather than adhering to God's instructions to speak to the rock. By striking the rock and not attempting first to speak to it, Moshe unwittingly enshrines force over speech, power over persuasion in the minds of his followers. Striking the rock is the antithesis of everything that Moshe taught and did until now. Certainly striking the rock achieves an immediate success - water flows from it. But the Lord tells Moshe that striking the rock does not sanctify the people of Israel or its God. It may appear to be a quick fix to the problem but it certainly is not a long lasting lesson of morality and holy behavior. Striking the rock and not speaking to it is what brings Moshe's hopes of leading Israel to the Promised Land crashing down in failure. The ability to speak wisely at the proper moment is still one of the great talents of human beings. All of us should attempt to cultivate and use it regularly in our personal, family and communal lives.

Shabat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein



 






ARTICLES ON DEVARIM AND THE THREE WEEKS:

View Complete List

Rebuilding the Temple
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5768

Manifestations of Mourning
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Golden Opportunities
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5773

ArtScroll

Moshe's Personal Assessment
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5771

What Are We Mourning?
Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky - 5771

Our Father, Our Light
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

> Gold Standard
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5766

The Way to a Person's Soul is Through His Dignity
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5757

It's Not What You Want - But How You Ask
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5759

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Unite!
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5760

The Red Heifer Reality
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5765

Body Language
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5770

Looking for a Chavrusah?

In a Month We Call -“Av”
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

Falsehood's Foothold
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5763

The Pathway to Consolation and Redemption
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5767

17th of Tammuz: Why We Fast - Part 1
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information