The Powers of Speech (Vaera)
If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use the pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time; a tremendous whack. -Sir Winston Churchill
As Moses and his brother, Aaron, prepare to meet with Pharaoh, to demand the release of the Israelite slaves, God gives them some advance notice as to what will happen and what they should do.
God advises them that Pharaoh will ask for some type of sign that they are indeed divine messengers. God indicates that at that juncture Moses shall instruct Aaron to grab his staff and perform a miracle.
The Berdichever notices that in the verse there is a seemingly extraneous word. The translation reads “give for yourselves a sign.” The normally word-efficient Torah could have easily transcribed “give a sign.” Why the superfluous “for yourselves”?
The Berdichever answers that according to the great Kabbalist, R’ Isaac Luria, God is listening to our every word. Furthermore, God gets tremendous pleasure from us when those words are words of Torah, of Mitzvot, of good deeds and kindness. Even beyond that, God, through those positive words that we utter, actually blesses us, and enables the good happenstances in our lives. Our words, the positive utterances of our mouth, have a direct impact on ourselves, on our world, on our reality.
The addition of “for yourselves” in the verse comes to highlight that Aaron and Moses, who dedicated themselves to only good and to the service of God, had the power to affect and change reality just by the power of speech. Just by the words they used and their intention, they were able to bend and contravene the laws of nature and do the miraculous. They could turn a staff into a reptile and then turn that reptile back into a staff. They could be God’s agents in bringing down the miraculous plagues upon Egypt. All just from the incredible power of their speech. They understood the power they had harnessed in devoting the words that came out of their mouths to God and Israel.
May our words ever be powerfully good – and if they can’t be, may we learn the more valuable lesson of when to be quiet.
On the marriage of Elisheva and Amichai Matar. Mazal Tov!