Jews globally are commemorating the Three Weeks of Mourning period that began with last Sunday’s 17th Day of Tammuz fast and culminates with the Fast of Tisha B’Av. This period of time marks the breaching of Jerusalem’s walls through the destructions of our Holy Temples, and our subsequent exile from the Land of Israel.
During the two millennia of our galut,Jews from every corner of the planet were – at various times and places – tortured, brutalized, isolated into ghettos, accused of horrendous crimes, ostracized, prevented from earning a living, forced to convert, marginalized in every conceivable way, and more recently decimated by the millions.
We attribute our bitter, dark exile and the destruction of the Second Temple to lashon hara and sinat chinam (negative speech and baseless hatred) – often due to groundless jealously.
The following are two poems I wrote about the destructive impact of gossip and slander. I hope they will serve as a deterrent when one is tempted to say something they shouldn’t.
The Gossip’s Lament
You were a good friend, yet I caused you much pain,
For I gossiped about you – though there was little to gain.
Merely moments in the limelight, the center of attention,
It didn’t matter that what I said was a bit of my invention.
I snickered and mocked you behind your unsuspecting back,
I dissected your character, pointed out the qualities you lack.
I listed your failings, and belittled the things you do,
Not giving much thought if what I said was even true.
I revealed your secrets that I had sworn to secrecy,
I shattered forever your cherished privacy.
I did not pause to consider what I was doing to a friend,
I had damaged your reputation – one you might never be able to mend.
You had been there for me for so many years,
You delighted in my joys, and shared in my tears.
You soothed my worries, assuaged feelings that were hurt,
And I cravenly repaid you by dragging your name in the dirt.
Now I have lost you – and others have turned away,
I glance at a phone that is silent all day.
I destroyed a priceless gift for a false moment of “glory,”
And I know it can’t be fixed by saying, “I’m so sorry.”
The spoken word is a powerful thing,
Whether uttered by a pauper or a powerful king.
For each word has a meaning and nuance that is unique,
And your words are a part of you that take wing when you speak.
Whether whispered very softly, or hurled in a shout,
A word is unstoppable – once it’s let out.
When you part with a word, you can’t get it back,
It flies to its intended – it’s full meaning intact.
A word can be a healing thing,
A word can make a sore heart sing.
A word can bring relief and hope to those in tears,
Or build bridges between strangers, dispelling all fears.
But a word can be a pain-inflicting thing,
It can cut, it can wound, it can deeply sting.
And for both speaker and listener, bring regret and shame,
A bond that once was – will never be the same.
A word, once spoken, can be a life-enhancing tool,
But also a destructive weapon in the mouth of a fool.
So weigh your words carefully, release them with thought,
For words that are let go – can never be caught.