web analytics
October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



The Sword In The Tongue (Conclusion)


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

In last week’s column I published letters from two women who wrote about the terrible ordeal from which many of our people suffer. In the Torah, such an affliction is called “onas devarim” – verbal abuse. While we are all familiar with the prohibitions regarding lashon hara (gossip), the prohibitions regarding onas devarim are less known. In fact, most people are not even aware of them. The following is my response:

First and foremost, yasher koach to you for bringing this very important but painful subject to the fore. There is a Yiddish saying, “Azoi vee es crystal zich, azoi Yiddish zich” – “As the non Jewish world goes, so goes the Jewish world.” There is no question that the cultural values and mores of our society impact upon us. In our world, we consider it “good-natured fun” to rank out someone. At universities we have hazing. We label people with nicknames and assail them with derogatory language; comedians make fun of others and everyone laughs. Should the victim of this abuse object, he or she is further assailed for lacking a sense of humor or not being a “good sport.”

Some students suffering from such abuse have actually been driven to suicide. In my work I have, sadly, encountered young people who fell through the cracks and abandoned Torah precisely because they were subjected to this abuse. Such incidents occur not only in schools but in summer camps as well.

Why are people so cavalier about onas devarim while at the same time recognizing, at least in theory, the dire consequences of lashon hara? While the devastating effects of lashon hara have had much exposure through shiurim and literature, there has been little focus on the deleterious effects of onas devarim. This is compounded by the ready acceptance in our society of such painful words as “fun.”

There is a well-known jingle American children learn at a tender age: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” Our Jewish teachings, however, propound just the opposite. While we agree that sticks and stones can break bones, we are very much aware that abusive, hurtful language can leave lasting scars on the soul – scars that never heal, scars that can actually destroy individuals and families.

These abusive words can come in many shapes and forms – ridicule, innuendo, and even what people regard as good-natured teasing.

Then there are those who indulge in “fishing expeditions” very much like what the little girl in the first letter last week had to endure. Not only did she have to deal with the fact that her daddy’s business was no longer viable, she had to adjust to radical changes in her life – not the least of which was that she could no longer go to summer camp while watching her friends make their happy preparations. On top of that, she had to put up with the snide remarks of busybodies like the lady driving the carpool.

You don’t need a special education to realize that children whose families are suffering from the financial crisis are hurting and certainly do not need cruel questions like “How come you didn’t go to camp?” or “What did you do the whole day by yourself?” or “Is your mother working?” or “What is your father doing now?”

It is no wonder your little girl does not want to go in that lady’s car again.

Mind you, this abominable sin of onas devarim comes in many other guises. I know of singles who stopped going to shul because there were always some insensitive people lying in wait for them with statements like “It’s time you were married already.” And it’s not only strangers who are guilty of this but also well-intentioned friends and family members.

Some might argue that these people are trying to do their best to help singles find their mates. But this is not the way to do it. Those who are truly sincere can make a polite recommendation, but those who do not have any suggestions should remain silent rather than pour salt on an open wound.

But, someone is sure to object, how do we know whether they are still available if we don’t ask?

Well, there are ways of asking. Make the recommendation and if the young man or woman is busy, he or she will be delighted to tell you so. But under no circumstances should you barrage them with questions that highlight their single status.

There are other seemingly innocent questions people pose – for example, asking a childless couple what they’re waiting for. The couple may be yearning for a baby and it’s just not happening.

As I said, these are well-intentioned comments, but they pierce the heart like a knife. How much more so outright hurtful remarks like those described in last week’s letters – asking a mother whose child just went through a broken engagement for the gory details, or assailing a mother who lost a baby with insensitive questions, or staring at a special-needs child, thereby bringing tears to the eyes of the mother. I could mention a thousand and one other examples, but I think the reader gets the point.

There are more halachas regarding speech than any other commandment. Indeed, our laws are very stringent in this regard. Three times a day, at the conclusion of the Shemoneh Esrei, we beseech G-d to guard our tongues from speaking deceitfully. Every Jew should repeat to himself Psalm 34: “Who is the man who desires life, who loves days that are good? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceitfully.”

Children should be taught from an early age to be careful with their words and not to tease or make fun of anyone, for the tongue is a mighty weapon that has the power to kill.

Indeed, G-d created us in such a way that we are all protected from misusing our tongues. Just consider – every organ in the body is either external or internal. For example, the eyes and the nose are external, the heart and the kidneys are internal. The tongue, however, is both external and internal and is protected by two gates – the mouth and the teeth – teaching us that before we use it, we must close those gates and think long and hard, for once words escape our lips we can never take them back, even if we apologize profusely.

I hope these thoughts will reach the hearts of all my readers and we will all rethink the words that escape our lips.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Sword In The Tongue (Conclusion)”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Do you know where your vegetables grow?
Not So Kosher Shemittah L’Mehadrin
Latest Judaism Stories
Greenbaum-102414

Noach was the lonely man of faith living in a depraved world, full of wickedness.

Parsha-Perspectives-logo

Avraham became a great man during the 175 years of his life, while his predecessors became increasingly wicked, despite staggering knowledge, during their lifetimes of hundreds of years.

Rapps-Rabbi-Joshua-logo

Shem realized that he owed his existence to his father who brought him into the world.

Daf-Yomi-logo

Law-Abiding Citizen
‘That Which Is Crooked Cannot Be Made Straight…’
(Yevamos 22a-b)

The flood was not sent to destroy, but to restore the positive potential of the world.

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

Why is there is no mention of dinosaurs, and other prehistoric animals, in the Torah?

Strict din demands perfection. There is no room for shortcomings and no place for excuses; you are responsible.

Surprisingly, my husband and one son arrived home over half-an-hour earlier than usual. I excitedly shared my perfect-timing story, but my better half one upped me easily.

Noach felt a tug, and then heard a rip. His jacket had been caught on the nail, and the beautiful suit had a tear.

Boundaries must be set in every home. Parents and children are not pals. They are not equals.

Noah and his wife could not fathom living together as husband and wife and continuing the human race

The Babel story is the 2nd in a 4-act drama that’s unmistakably a connecting thread of Bereishit

Our intentions are critical in raising children because they mimic everything we parents do & think

A humble person who achieves a position of prominence will utilize the standing to benefit others.

More Articles from Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Boundaries must be set in every home. Parents and children are not pals. They are not equals.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

The call of the shofar is eternal. It is not musical. Its magnetic allurement cannot be explained.

We recently marked the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11 – that terrible day when the symbols of man’s power and achievement crumbled before our eyes and disappeared in fire and smoke. For a very brief moment we lost our smugness. Our confidence was shaken. Many of us actually searched our ways. Some of us even learned […]

One of the cornerstones of our Jewish life is chesed, kindness. Chesed can only be taught by example

“There is nothing new under the sun” is as valid today as it was yesterday.

The time immediately preceding Mashiach’s arrival is likened to the birth pangs of a woman in labor.

If we regard pain and suffering as mere coincidence, we will feel no motivation to examine our lives

What does Hashem want of us? That we should protect each other and the awesome heritage He gave us.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/the-sword-in-the-tongue-conclusion-2/2010/11/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: