D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
Before engaging your mouth, put your mind in gear!
Shammai used to say: ….. speak little, but do much... (Pirkei Avot 1:15)
Speak little? For many of us this is easier said than done. How often have we found ourselves saying something—saying anything—in order to fill the silence in the room or because saying anything feels better than staying silent? There are of course many times when speaking up is the natural thing to do. But even then, it’s best to be cautious and make sure to think before you speak. We all know what’s it’s like to instantly regret the words that have just come tumbling out of our mouths. To prevent that from happening, we should always be aware of the impact what we say, how we say it and when we say it, can have on others. Words have power.
In this week’s Torah portion, B’ha’alotcha, Moses’ brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam spoke:
בְּמֹשֶׁ֔ה עַל־אֹד֛וֹת הָֽאִשָּׁ֥ה הַכֻּשִׁ֖ית אֲשֶׁ֣ר לָקָ֑ח
against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married (Num. 12:1).
To put it more bluntly, Aaron and Miriam gossiped about their sister-in-law, the Cushite woman. God of course hears what they say and sticks up for Moses by dressing down the two siblings. God then withdraws and as punishment for her harsh words, Miriam is stricken with leprosy. Aaron however, seems to get off scot-free—but that’s a topic for another day. Then despite his siblings’ gossip, Moses does his Moses thing and prays for Miriam to be healed.
We may have opinions about what someone should or shouldn’t be doing. We may even be very eager to express those opinions verbally either in person or behind their back. But just remember, before engaging your mouth put your mind in gear.