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Words like Magic

Words like Magic

With Tisha B’Av approaching, we can strive to make things right by using our words to build, not destroy.


My neighbor, Debbie*, has magical powers. I doubt that she realizes the extent of her prowess, the pervasive capacity of her words to transform their recipients, but of this I am sure: she is a master of her art.

“Malky,” she gushes, “you are so put-together!” I straighten my lopsided beret and perk up my ears as I pluck another tricycle from the jumble in our garage. “Honestly, I don’t know how you do it!” Honestly, I don’t know what she is talking about, but I find myself beaming.

Little does Debbie realize that whatever clouds might be hovering overhead at the time part like the Red Sea upon her arrival, allowing the full brilliance of the sun to warm the hearts of those around her.

Maybe she’s lying. Maybe she wants my parking spot. Maybe she took upon herself some sort of commitment that requires her to compliment others. Maybe she really does think that I have a special soul simply because I gave a friend a lift to the supermarket, or that I am a supermom because my daughter shared her Veggie Chips.

Who cares? Either way, I suddenly feel “put-together.” When I come home to the clutter of books a certain toddler left on the floor or open the baking cabinet to be greeted by an avalanche of assorted pans and random cupcake holders that a certain mother carelessly shoved in, I will not trip over those books with a helpless sigh, nor will I slam the cabinet shut before something else falls out and make some grape-juice ice-pops instead. I will sort, rearrange and organize, because today I am “put together.”

When I feel like a “supermom,” I will try harder not to yell at my kids; When I feel like a “terrific wife”, I will try to remember to greet my husband with a smile (instead of kvetching about the bubbles that were poured over my toddler’s head) when he comes home from work. When I feel capable, I will do.

The power of praise is no news to us mothers. Praising our children can raise them to the heights of whom they can become. When done correctly, we can gently and wisely guide our children into the individual roles that God has provided for them, allowing them to discover their inner strengths. With God’s help and our attuned efforts, we, too, can make magic.

Related Article: Coming Together

What we might not realize is that this is a handy survival mechanism for us, grownups, too. As we cruise along the individual paths of our lives, GPS firmly rooted nearby, we often pass each other without so much as a glance. Opportunities to reach out and build each other up pass us by like road signs and we are too distracted with our iPads to notice them. And then when we find ourselves lost, when our world isn’t quite the way we want it to be, we suddenly notice each other as we try to figure out where to place the blame.

With just a small compliment or a genuine smile, we can bring a dose of magic to our relationships.

We may share households or neighborhoods or even just a trip to the zoo; at the very least we may share nothing more than our world. And that, my friends, is a good enough reason to foster our connection within it.

With just a small compliment, albeit an honest one, or a genuine smile, we can bring a dose of magic to our relationships. We can pierce the disconnection so many of us feel and brighten someone’s day, the effects of which often spread far and wide.

Many centuries ago, our ancestors learnt this lesson the hard way. The Holy Land wasn’t always spoken of as such. When 12 of our leaders were sent on a mission to check out the special land that God had promised us, ten of them returned with a surprising report.

Oh, it’s a land flowing with milk and honey alright, they implied, but we’ll never make it – not with our sins. They knew we could only conquer under God’s leadership- and that was dependent on our deeds.

And so, instead of using their words to encourage us, they painted the land with frightening colors, causing the nation to tremble and weep to the extent that we wanted to return to the slavery of Egypt. That night was Tisha B’Av, what became the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.

Had they believed in us, had we believed in ourselves, things might have turned out very differently.

With Tisha B’Av approaching, we can strive to make things right. We can bring back what was lost and reverse the trend by using our words to build, not destroy.

Whether you compliment your but-I’ve-never-said-two-words-to-them neighbor on his freshly mowed lawn, or tell some stranger in the supermarket, “Wow, you passed right by the five-for-a-dollar chocolate-caramel-crunch and you didn’t even look once! You must have tremendous willpower!” know that you are building someone. And it won’t stop there. They will, in turn, pass some of those building blocks onto someone else.

Thank you, Debbie, for making me feel like I’m saving the world from starvation every time I loan you an onion. You have shared some of your magic with me. Seems like it’s not that hard to save the world, after all.

*name changed

July 21, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 6

(4) Devorah, July 24, 2012 12:13 AM

Really inspring

(3) ruth housman, July 22, 2012 4:29 PM

how we complement each other

You are so right! A smile goes miles so no surprise the word mile is contained by , SMILE! Some say to children, the moon is made of green cheese and we say, just say cheese and, smile. How beautiful a curve of moon looks just like a smile! Maybe when we learn we're all followed by a moonshadow we will all smile because positivity's infectious.

(2) Susan Miller, July 22, 2012 4:22 PM

Always say kind words

At city market I was admiring the beauty of two Arab children and told their totally covered mother so. As if expecting insults or harrassment she said, "I don't speak Engligh", So I pointed to children, I twice slowly said, "beautiful children." she, said "Thank you." I do not trust Islalm or Sharia law, bur only kind words should be given to Muslims and people in general.

Shoshana-Jerusalem, June 30, 2016 4:58 PM

Are you for real?

Come live in Israel and see how kind you'll feel like being to these murderers who stab sleeping children and run people over in the streets.

Being kind will help? You're out of contact with reality. They stab their bosses, who were very kind to them, their Jewish neighbors, and have even placed explosives in hospitals where they were treated.and saved. Of course you don't start up with them.

You don't like Sharia Law? Wow! your're really great!

Vanessa, July 2, 2016 4:27 AM

I have a thought

Prayer works.
Why don't we try this.
Hows about EVERY Jewish person starts a conversation with with neighbor, friend, loved one, a stranger where we say why don't we try something we have not done before all together as ONE and reach out to Hashem.
Build the consensus between ONE and all on the time, day and purpose to start a Prayer that will not end to Hashem reaching out to Him in love and sorrow for all the hurt and pain being suffered by all.
This hatred is not normal
We have thousands of years of history to prove this FACT
Divine intervention is needed
When is enough enough?
It seems to me every well thought out plan, every appeasement has been a failure for all of history.
Everything has been tried but PRAYER that reached out to Hashem by EVERYONE together

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