Photo Credit: Jewish Press

My son learning in Yerushalayim asked me the other day how my Elul is going.

This is not a simple question.

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Our world is not the same. Words conjure up images we could never before have imagined.

Masks. Pandemic. Meron. Bleachers. Surfside. Ben and Jerry’s.

Yes, the world has changed but the real question is ‘Have we changed?’

When I was a little girl, my brother and I would join my grandparents for Yom Kippur. My Zayda was the rav of the shul. I recall Erev Yom Kippur, as Zayda would get ready for Kol Nidrei. I would watch my Zayda in his white kittel, white yarmulke, long white flowing beard and feel as if I was standing next to a Malach Hashem. Tears would flow freely. I felt Yom HaDin.

Every year before Yizkor, Zayda would stand up on the bimah, the aron kodesh behind him, and he would deliver the same speech.

Heint iz Yizkor. Today is Yizkor. There are people sitting here who are not talking to each other. Parents not talking to children and children not talking to parents. Brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, all who cannot sit together at a table or say a word to each other. Mach shalom! Make peace! Make peace before it is too late. We are about to say Yizkor. If these neshamas could come back to the world, don’t you think they would run to make peace again, to sit together at a table again, and be with the people in their lives again? But they cannot! Mach shalom! Make peace before it is too late!”

Then Zayda would give a ‘klop‘ on the bimah and cry out “Yizkor!”

One year my brother asked “Zayda, why do you give the same exact speech every year before Yizkor?

My Zayda answered with tears. “Because every year it is the same thing. Machlokes eats up our families, eats up our homes, and eats up Klal Yisroel.”

We must hear Zayda’s words today. Has nothing changed in all these years? Is it possible that we are still judging each other, hurting each other, not looking kindly at one another, thinking that if he is a different type of Jew than me, then I cannot relate to them? How many homes are fractured and shattered because of the tone we use and the words we say?

I remember receiving my very first chumash. That night I repeated my morah’s singsong translation just as my children and grandchildren repeat and review till today. “Vayomer Hashem, and Hashem said, Yehi Ohr, let there be light, Vayehi Ohr, and there was light.” Sounds so simple but now I appreciate that the wisdom is incredible. Why would the Torah tell us that Hashem said there should be light? Why not just create light?

Here is the key to shalom in our lives.

When we speak we create.

Hashem said let there be light and so light was created.

The message is life changing.

The koach of ‘dibbur,’ speech, is ours for the taking. ‘Dibbur’ is related to the word ‘davar,’ – a thing. We are truly creating something real with our words. I can create light or I can create darkness. I can create joy or I can create sadness. I can create hope or I can create hopelessness. I can build a home with love or I can destroy with animosity. All through my words.

Think about it. A child asks to read a story. A spouse wants to speak. A friend is feeling down. What is your reply?

A grandmother told me that every time she calls her grandchildren they say “Bubby, I’ll call you back in a minute.” But they never call back.

All it takes is a few words to have a conversation and help someone feel cared for and loved.

Hashem created a universal message for the entire world to understand this message: when I speak I create. Think about it. A magician comes into a room and is about to perform his trick. He can be in any country in the world. Before he shows his magic, he shouts out “Abracadabra.” “Abarei Kidabarei” – “I will create as I speak.”

My dear friends, as we arrive to the final days of Elul and approach the Yamim Noraim, let us take this message into our hearts. We each have the power to create with our words.

It takes just one moment to hurt. But it can take a lifetime to heal.

In marriage and family life, especially. Remember. Abracadabra. Avarei Kedabarei. We are all magicians, able to create magic within the hearts and souls of another. We can create goodness. We can create love. We can create forgiveness. All with our words.

Mach Shalom. Make peace.

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Slovie Jungreis Wolff is a noted teacher, author, relationships and lecturer. She is the leader of Hineni Couples and the author of “Raising A Child With Soul.” She gives weekly classes and has lectured throughout the U.S., Canada, and South Africa. She can be reached at sloviehineni@gmail.com.