Words. We grasp for words. What words can be found to express what has happened? What words can be found to express the meaning of what is happening? Words fail us.
In the beginning the Holy One fashioned a tool for the creation of the world. And that tool was words. “Baruch SheAmar V’Hayah HaOlam – Blessed is the One who spoke and the world came to be.”
Of all that God could have employed to bring the world into being, God chose words. And having formed and shaped our world, in the last act of Creation, the Holy One gave that tool to us. By giving us words, God made us holy, a little lower than the angels, a partner to complete the work of creation.
From the beginning we knew not what we were given. We first used language to come together to build a tower at Babel. Instead of using words to become all we could be as human beings, we sought instead to use words to try to overthrow the Holy One. And so God confounded our language, and scattered us over the face of the globe.
We speak so many different languages. And in each of those languages are different dialects. Language is how we express who we are, what we believe, what we feel and experience. All language is interpretation. Words express what we think we know and what we choose to believe.
Words carry the power of Creation. And the words we utter have the power to transform our world. Words can inspire and motivate. Words can hurt and denigrate. Words can unite hearts in love and understanding. Words can divide in hatred and fear.
Words can bring about death and destruction. Words can bring healing and peace.
We were given such a powerful tool – and we are so careless in how we use it.
We write and speak without thinking. We compose messages for immediate gratification without considering their long-term impact. We deal in calumny and half-truths, we channel conspiracy theories and cheap lies. We turn language into profanity, for we employ it solely for our selfish, gluttonous craving for power.
God used the power of words to create the world. And we are using the power of words to destroy it.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Just as every time we open our mouths we can choose what comes out, so can we decide, today, that we will use the holy power of words for good.
We can choose to stop using language that insults, demeans, and divides, and instead use language that elevates, uplifts, and heals.
We can choose to stop using language that hides and confuses and twists the truth, and instead use language that clarifies, that illuminates, and that is honest.
We can choose to stop using language that enrages and riles us to hatred, and instead use language that soothes and inspires us to love.
It is time. It is well past time. It is far past the time to be more humane in our language. It far past the time for us to be more humane.
Dear God, don’t let words fail us now. Put the words in our mouths and our hearts that we may do what we must to redeem our hate-filled and broken world. Give us the courage to say what You need us to hear. Give us the wisdom to know when we should say nothing at all.
May God shelter the souls of those slaughtered this Shabbat. May God comfort those who have been made to suffer from the hand of wickedness.
May God help us to find the words to repair the brokenness, and teach us how to speak a message of consolation. May God inspire us to compose the words of a new song – a song of love, of holiness, and peace.