GOOD MORNING!  One of the distinguishing features of human beings from other species is that we can talk. And one of the distinguishing features amongst human beings is how we use the gift of speech. Do we speak in an elevated manner or in a crass manner? The way we speak says a lot about us -- who we are, how we perceive ourselves, who we identify with.

The Torah teaches that human beings were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Since God has no corporeal image, the Torah is telling us that we were created in a spiritual image of the Almighty -- that we can emulate the Almighty in doing kindness and that we can use speech to perfect this world.

Many times people are not aware of how they speak. Use of curse words demean the speaker who after all, should look upon him/herself as a holy individual created in the image of the Almighty! Also, people need to be aware of how they use speech when talking with someone or about someone. Loshon hora (literally, "evil speech") is derogatory speech and is forbidden by Jewish law even when it's true -- unless there is a compelling requirement to share the information. Loshon hora is the fuel for hatred, jealousy and contention. It can break an engagement, end a marriage, destroy a partnership, ruin a life. However, proper speech can bring harmony and build relationships. Words can hurt, words can heal.

Aish HaTorah is launching a media and educational campaign to promote the wisdom and tools of not speaking derogatorily and instead, practicing positive speech, which will lead to better relationships, tolerance, and a better world! Want to guess the name of the campaign? "Words Can Hurt, Words Can Heal."

If you would like some immediate guidelines, here are:


  1. Do not express damaging or derogatory information about someone that might cause him physical, psychological or financial harm, even if it is true and deserved.

  2. Promote people's well being. When in doubt, don't speak out.

  3. Humor is great, but make sure jokes aren't at someone else's expense.

  4. Be kind to yourself. Speaking badly even about yourself is unethical.

  5. Don't listen to gossip. If you can't change the direction of the conversation, it is advisable to leave.

  6. If you inadvertently hear damaging information, you should believe that it is NOT true.

  7. Always give others the benefit of the doubt and focus on the positive.

  8. Words once spoken can't be erased. Think before you speak, especially if you are angry, hurt or jealous.

  9. Use kind and supportive words with your children and spouse whenever possible. Harsh words can cause irreparable harm as can speaking derogatorily to others about the ones you love most.

  10. It is not only permitted, but required, to warn a person about potential harm -- for example, that a potential business partner has a repeated record of embezzlement.

The Talmud (Avodah Zorah 19b) tells the story of Reb Alexandry who called out in a market place, "Who wants life? Who wants life?" Figuring that he had an elixir for long life to sell, people gathered around. Reb Alexandry then quoted Psalm 34:13-14, "Who is the man who desires life and loves days that he may see the good? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit." In truth, Reb Alexandry gave people a prescription for long life in this world as well as the world to come!

There is a fabulous book which is a must for every Jewish home and for every individual desiring to perfect the use of the gift of speech. It is Guard Your Tongue, written by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, which is available from your local Jewish book store or by call toll-free 877-758-3242.

Torah Portion of the Week

Rivka (Rebecca) gives birth to Esav (Esau) and Ya'akov (Jacob). Esav sells the birthright to Ya'akov for a bowl of lentil soup. Yitzhak (Isaac) sojourns in Gerar with Avimelech, king of the Philistines. Esav marries two Hittite women bringing great pain to his parents (because they weren't of the fold).

Ya'akov impersonates Esav on the counsel of his mother in order to receive the blessing of the oldest son by his blind father, Yitzhak. Esav, angry because of his brother's deception which caused him to lose the first born blessings, plans to kill Ya'akov, so Ya'akov flees to his uncle Lavan (Laban) in Padan Aram -- on the advice of his parents. They also advise him to marry Lavan's daughter.

Esav understands that his Canaanite wives are displeasing to his parents, so he marries a third wife, Machlath, the daughter of Ishmael.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

After Avraham died, Jacob cooked lentil soup as a sign of mourning. Esau came from the field, saw the soup and said, "... please, pour for me from this red thing" (Genesis 25:30). Later in the Torah portion (27:22) the commentator, Rashi, mentions that Jacob always spoke politely and used the word "please." Esau, however, always spoke in a rough manner to his father. What can we learn from the fact that he was polite in this conversation?

Even though Esau excelled in honoring his father, he still spoke to him in an insolent and arrogant manner. We see here that when Esau had a desire for food, he spoke in a respectful manner and used the term na, "please". This is the manner of people with faulty traits. Even though they constantly talk with chutzpah, when it comes to manipulating someone to fulfill their desire, they speak softly and humbly.

There are people who speak politely to their preferred customers in business, but fail to speak respectfully to their family and other people. Be aware of how politely and respectfully you speak to someone when you are trying to influence him to help you obtain things you want. Then try to make that manner of speaking habitual!


Jerusalem  3:59
Chicago 4:02  Dallas 5:03  Guatemala 5:13
Hong Kong 5:22  Honolulu 5:30  J'Burg 6:28
London 3:37  Los Angeles 4:26  Melbourne 8:08
Miami 5:11  Montreal 3:54  Moscow 3:44
New York 4:11  Singapore 6:37  Toronto 4:24


You can tell more about a person by
what he says about others than you can by
what others say about him.
--  Leo Aikman

Dedicated by...

With Special Thanks to
David & Lynn Russin
for dedicating
this week's Torah Portion