The Power of Speech
Rabbanit Naama Frankel
“שובה ישראל עד ה’ אלוהיך כי כשלת בעווניך… קחו עימכם דברים ושובו אל ה’” (הושע בפרק יד, ב-ג)
“Return, O Israel to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled in your iniquity…Take words with yourselves and return to the Lord” (Hos. 14:2-3)
The Talmud in Yoma 86b says: “Come and see how different the ways of God and human beings are. If a person angers his fellow man, it is doubtful whether he (the latter) will be pacified by him or not. Even if you say, ‘he can be pacified,’ it is doubtful whether he will be pacified by mere words. But with God, if a person commits a sin in secret, He is pacified with words, as it is written: ‘Take words with yourselves and return to the Lord.’ And even more so, He even considers it to be a good deed, as it is written: ‘And accept that which is good.’ And even more so, it is considered as if he had sacrificed cows, as it is written: ‘Our lips shall replace the sacrificial bulls.’”
When we read these verses, we may ask ourselves: What is the meaning of the ‘return’ and what are the ‘words’ we are supposed to ‘take’?
The Talmud in Yoma seems to be talking about the teshuva with which we are familiar, when we repent for our sins. A return from what a person did or sinned to a purer and better place. This teshuva is done through speech.
Speech has the power to bring an idea into reality, to reveal the hidden chambers of our hearts. A conversation between two people allows for words to sprout forth and for arguments to be settled. Speech reveals what is on a person’s mind and has the ability to bring together people who are very far apart.
We know that speech is a very powerful component of teshuva, as seen by the fact that the viduy confession, which is part of the process of repentance, also involves speech. A person realizes that he has sinned, against his fellow man or against God, and wishes to make a change.
Teshuva is not only asking for forgiveness for a sin, but it is also how a person progresses. When a person’s heart is in tune with the world and his eyes wish to find the way to goodness, he “takes words with him” that he sees; words that he hears. He takes the reality and turns it into small opportunities which allow for personal development and progress.
With God’s help we will all merit to return to Him and make Him pleased. We will fill the world with the goodness we all yearn for by ‘steering clear of evil’ and increasing the goodness.
Rabbanit Naama Frankel is Rosh Beit Midrash of Midreshet Lindenbaum’s branch in the city of Lod