Translation by Yehshua Siskin
All of us have a lot of sharp comments to make about teachers’ organizations, politicians, and of course about the members of our families with whom we are presently locked down at home. Restraint has no good public relations. It’s not considered cool to hesitate and to think before answering. The easiest thing is to shout, to curse, to speak harshly. The hardest thing is to control the most deadly weapon we have – the power of speech.
This week’s parasha (Tazria-Metzora) offers an alternative perspective on our culture of speech and the commentators are extensively preoccupied with lashon hara (insulting speech or gossip), with the words that come out of our mouths. The commentators contend that speech should be the end of a process and not the beginning of one, and that we must think well before opening our mouths in order to be successful in harnessing the tremendous power of speech.
In these days of living in cramped quarters, controlling our speech is especially difficult. Who doesn’t want to explode, to insult and to scream, even several times a day? The parasha is a yearly reminder that common courtesy, good manners, and thinking two or even three times before saying or writing anything should be the foundation of our interactions with others. Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe once wrote: “We put a lot of effort into teaching a baby to talk but do not invest much thought into teaching ourselves to be silent.”