Bite Your Tongue
Our mouths are powerful weapons - they can be used either for the good or for the bad. In this week's Torah portion we learn about a spiritual affliction called tzaraat that used to come to people who hurt others with their words. We can learn from here the important value of thinking twice before we shoot off our mouths.
In our story, some kids see what a few unpleasant words can do.
"Really, today's your birthday?" Lorie asked Debby as the two of them were walking home from school.
The girl nodded her head.
"So are you going to make a party?"
"I dunno," Debby said. "It just feels kinda babyish, y'know?" Lorie nodded as Debby went on. "But just to do nothing at all doesn't feel right either. I kind of want to just get together this evening with four or five of my closest friends for pizza or something. You know - celebrate, but not celebrate?"
"Great idea," Lorie said. "So do it."
Debby shook her head. "I dunno, you know me - I'm shy. I feel funny just calling people up out of the blue - even friends. Never mind."
"Never mind nothing!" Lorie insisted. "I'm not shy. I'll make the calls for you."
"Really, you will?" Debby's eyes lit up.
"Sure. What are friends for? Just give me a list of who you want me to invite and I'll call them and arrange everything when I get home."
With Debby's list in hand, Lorie dialed Sue, the first name that was written down.
"...Get together for Debby's birthday?..." Sue said. "Sure, I'll come... Wow that's so nice she thinks of me as one of her closest friends."
"Yeah, I'm surprised, too," Lorie said. "After the nasty things Debby said about you the other day. She told me you..." As Lorie went on, the phone on the other end was silent. "...So you'll be coming tonight, right?"
"Uh, yeah...probably," Sue said with a lot less enthusiasm in her voice.
Lorie hung up and made the next call...
"Pizza tonight for Debby's close friends?... Why not?" Judy said. "I'll be there."
"Great," said Lorie. "You know it's funny," she added "I didn't even know you two knew each other; whenever Debby spoke about her close friends to me your name never came up even once."
"Oh ... really?" Judy said.
"Nope. I don't even know why she told me to call you - maybe she just wants to make sure she won't have to bring home leftover food in a doggie bag," she chuckled. "Well anyway, see you there." Lorie laughed and hung up.
No way! Judy thought as she put down the phone. And I thought we were close friends! Well, Debby can just go give her leftovers to her dog!
And so the calls went on. Each time Lorie just managed to say the wrong thing to make the kid on the other side of the line feel bad ... and mad at Debby.
That evening at the restaurant, Debby held her crying face in her arms as she sat over the cold, uneaten giant pizza - all alone - except for Lorie.
"I'm so sorry," Lorrie said sympathetically, looking at her watch. "We've been here almost an hour. I guess no one really is coming. And after all those calls I made. Gee, I guess a person never really knows who their true friends are, huh? Well anyway you're lucky to have at least one true-blue loyal friend - me!"
Q. How did the kids Lorie invited to Debby's party feel at first about coming?
A. They were happy to be invited and wanted to come.
Q. How did they feel afterward?
A. They were upset after Lorrie said bad things about Debby to them and didn't want to come anymore.
Q. Do you think Lorie is Debby's good friend?
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from what happened?
A. All it took was a few thoughtless words by Lorie to turn what could have been a great time for Debby into a social disaster. It's so important to watch what we say and make sure our words don't cause harm.
Q. If what Lorrie said was true, does that make it okay for her to speak as she did?
A. Even if something's true, if it's hurtful and there is no real and important practical purpose in saying it - we shouldn't!
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages teach that the tongue holds the power of life and death. What do you think this means?
A. Even though it may seem harmless - our tongue - that is the way we use it by speaking - can, if used in a positive way, make down-and-out people feel alive again, or if used cruelly can hurt people so much it's almost like killing them!
Q. Should we believe the negative gossip that we hear?
A. If it involves our wellbeing in a genuine way, we may consider it as 'possibly true' and take necessary precautions, but if not we should assume the gossip is just a baseless rumor.