The Power of Words


In asking forgiveness for our sins of the past, we do two things:  admit what we did wrong and then promise to do better.  In the prayers of the High Holy Days, several times we list and enumerate behavioral sins.  We repeat these every year as though once the Days are over we forget our resolutions and retract our promises.  Do we?


It is possible that for many of us the meanings are lost with the pace and detachment of reading from a prepared text, as we read without comprehension and reflection.  It is, therefore, valuable to look at these listed sins not within the context and environment of the service but as a personal reading.  By doing that, we can focus on the sins that are more relevant to our own lives, activities and experiences and make resolutions that are more personal and committed.


In one of those lists we ask forgiveness for "the sin we have committed against You with our words, ... by speaking slander, ... by malicious gossip".  There is a great emphasis on sins that we commit with words and speech, especially when we distort the truth or speak negatively about others, behind their backs, without allowing them to defend themselves.  For example, we commit a sin when we try to promote a case that we support by speaking ill of the people who oppose it (negative campaigning!) ; we commit a sin when we tell behind-the-back what we do not have the courage to say face-to-face ; we commit a sin even by passive participation in gossip and slander if we do not discourage them.


King Solomon said: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21).  We control and have power on what we say and how we say it.  Fulfilling a resolution to refrain from slander and malicious gossip is achievable.


Judah Ari-Gur



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