With words G-d created the world.
“God has granted us the powerful gift of language, the tool of words to create our worlds. May God help us to guard our lips, and may God guide us to use our words wisely.”
– Lauren Eichler Berkun
“Our leaders must speak out consistently and clearly.”
– Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of ADL
Think before we speak. Know before whom we stand. We live in a world, where now more than ever, words can live eternally. The internet is a remarkable and destructive place. It increases the amount and speed of communication, yet obliterates our true understanding of it. It takes away humanity, and eliminates nuance and tone, intention and meaning. The written word in letters and books, has been replaced with letters and quick phrases and emojis. Face to face conversation is a lost art.
Think about how much better laughing out loud actually is, then reading three letters. LOL does not and cannot alight our senses. The sights and sounds of laughter are empowering and life affirming. They need to be experienced in person. We want and need to hear our child’s actual laughter… not see LOL on a screen.
We are losing the ability to write on paper and in literal letters, using our hearts and souls, our minds and thoughts, and yes, our hands.
We are losing the ability to truly and accurately and specifically communicate with words and our own written language.
We are losing the ability to listen to each other and truly hear each other, as well as actually talk to each other in a civilized and open manner.
We are losing control of our own words. And yet at the same time, we must understand that a person can control and use words for very specific reason and cause, and must be held accountable, without white washing and explaining away the specific choice of words. A person can SAY one thing, and DO another. And yet, as important as words are, we must know that sometimes there are no words to comfort a mourner, which is why we must limit what we say, and sometimes offer only a shoulder to cry on and a hug to support. When we know before whom we stand, we will know what we should say and what we should not.
“There are three ascending levels of mourning: with tears — that is the lowest. With silence — that is higher. And with a song — that is the highest.”
– Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
It is through the period of Shiva, and sometimes well beyond, that we can hopefully move back to song. Let us all move back to song.
It is through opening our eyes and our ears that we will see and hear the good that still remains…
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
– Fred Rogers
Words, words, words…
With words did I hear what was perhaps the most heartbreaking thing to come out of Pittsburgh, though not unexpected. With words did I hear a woman saying she is now questioning everything… everything… including G-d and Judaism.
We must NOT let this hate and this subhuman take that away from us, too.
With words, does the Talmud teach us:
“Anyone who destroys a life is considered to have destroyed an entire world; and anyone who saves a life is as if he saved an entire world.”
With words does Pirkei Avos teach us:
“If I am not for me, who is for me; and if I am (only) for myself, what am I. And if not now, when?”
– Hillel, Pirkei Avos, 1:14
With words does Einstein remind us:
“Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men — above all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends.”
– Albert Einstein
With poetic words are we reminded that “Each Of Us Has A Name”
“Each of us has a name given by God and given by our parents .
Each of us has a name given by our stature and our smile and given by what we wear .
Each of us has a name given by the mountains and given by our walls.
Each of us has a name given by the stars and given by our neighbors .
Each of us has a name given by our sins and given by our longing.
Each of us has a name given by our enemies and given by our love .
Each of us has a name given by our celebrations and given by our work.
Each of us has a name given by the seasons and given by our blindness.
Each of us has a name given by the sea and given by our death.”
– Zelda (Zelda Schneurson Mishkovsky)
And with these words…
“There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world even though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.”
― With teachings and words from Judaism are we inspired, even in darkness:
“If I had not fallen, I would not have picked myself up,
If I did not sit in darkness, I would not have seen the light.”
Orchot Tzadikim, Shaar Hateshuvah, Shaar 26
Allow me to leave you with two thoughts…
“The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.”
– Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Now it is us… but it will be others if we do not come together and fight against hate, all hate.
And this is exactly why…
“I don’t speak because I have the power to speak; I speak because I don’t have the power to remain silent.”
– Rabbi A.Y. Kook
I pray that we all know when to be silent, and when we need to speak up. Let us all come together and form a chorus of powerful and empowering words. Let our words sing, let our words change the world and let us always remember… that it is with words that G-d created the world.For the community of Pittsburgh… For all of those we have lost, may their memory always be for a blessing.