Friday, December 22, 2006

Sanctifying the Mouth

In our last installment on the Seven Candles of the Face, we are given two views of how to sanctify the central candle of the face, the mouth. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov stated that we can sanctify the mouth by not speaking falsely, while Reb Yitzchok Breiter, a follower of the Rebbe, stated that we sanctify the mouth by avoiding saying forbidden things and by speaking words of Torah and prayer.

While their advice may seem different, it is actually the same. The Torah, in both its written and oral aspects, is Truth given directly from Hashem. The prayers in the siddur, a large part of them being taken directly from scripture, are also words of Truth. Not only is it a mitzvah to pray and study Torah daily, fulfillment of these mitzvahs actually requires physical articulation of the vocal organs and thus speech, even if it is barely more than a whisper. Furthermore, words of kindness and sympathy to one who is ill or troubled are, just like Torah study and prayer, mitzvahs. As such, these acts of speech serve to bind us closer to Hashem.

Just as True speech can bring us closer to Hashem, False speech can distance us from Hashem. Slander, talebaring, mockery, and gossip are all examples of False speech, even if the words spoken in each of these situations don't contain any false information. Apart from being actually forbidden by Halacha, this kind of speech is destructive and far more than any physical blow, and spreads and corrupts like an illness. Filling our mouths with Truth helps us avoid these pitfalls.

For more on avoiding improper speech, I highly recommend Chfetz Chaim: A Lesson a Day, the Concepts and Laws of Proper Speech arranged for Daily Study, published by Artscroll.


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