Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
In order to acquire the most powerful weapon, we don’t need a license. We already carry it with us: the power of speech. These days are not simple and words come out of our mouth (or our keyboard) with nerve-racking speed. Words we speak against the police or against our neighbors, against the government or against our kids.
This week’s Torah portion, Matot-Massei, begins with the subject of vows. A person who promises to do something is not allowed to violate that vow. There is holiness in our words. We are obliged to take them seriously because they create reality.
Rav Yaakov Edelstein used to say we need to learn that moving the tongue is supposed to be more difficult than moving an arm or a leg. When we take a hammer to strike a nail, Rav Yaakov said, we know in advance what we intend to do. In this manner we should rule over our speech, with forethought. “Life and death are in the power of the tongue” (see Proverbs 18:21), particularly in a time of tremendous pressure like this when every word – good or bad – can have enormous consequences.