September 25th, 2001

Can you imagine living a life without ever speaking?

There are certain monastic orders that live a life of contemplation, never communicating with each other or anyone throughout their lives.

They believe that by completely desisting from speech one can ensure that one’s mouth will not become contaminated by things that shouldn’t be said – even if they are said innocently or inadvertently.

Are you comfortable with that? I’m not. It’s analogous to never crossing a road because you fear you might get run over.

In fact, abstention is a concept that is antithetical to Jewish thought. Other religions revel in certain absolute restrictions as an ultimate realization of spiritual fulfillment. These creeds believe that by denying the human body of what it craves physically, one purges it of its base materialism, allowing the vacuum to be filled with spirituality and Godliness.

But Judaism rejects this. As Jews, our task on this world is to harness God’s creation and use it in every way possible, so that every divine spark can be united with its ultimate purpose.

Some of those creations are elevated through use and others via rejection. The same spiritual goal is achieved by eating kosher meat as by not eating bacon. Not to eat meat at all, however, would be a denial of the spiritual value of meat.

Sex within marriage has a spiritual value on par with abstention from illicit sexual contact, such as incest and adultery.

Speech is exactly the same. Our most powerful tool for the good can so easily become a weapon wielded for bad. Harnessing our power of speech so that we can enhance our spiritual status is probably the most difficult challenge we face.

Out of the thousands of words we say every day, how many are devoted to a spiritually elevating agenda? That’s why we are given prayers to say that  enable us to have a focus for our power of speech.

But even this is not enough.

Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav insists that every Jew, indeed every human being, must find time to converse with God. By which he means literally using your mouth and your vocal chords to conduct a conversation with your Creator. What an incredible way of using your power of speech.

I know that you don’t need to be convinced of the importance of speech. We spend most of our lives talking. In fact, our relationships with everyone we know are defined by how we communicate with them through speech.

But maybe you need to be convinced about the power of speech in connection to our relationship with God. How can we expect to ever achieve a dialogue with God if we never started talking to him in the first place.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are fast approaching. This year, come to  synagogue for High Holidays, and talk to God. In fact, why not come and do that during the year as well? Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen.

It’s good to talk.


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