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Our Words Shape Our Lives

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The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
     but the tongue of the wise brings healing
. — Proverbs 12:18

A story is told about a young Thomas Edison who came home one day with a paper for his mother. He told her, “My teacher told me to give this paper only to my mother.” Thomas’ mother read the note and her eyes filled with tears. Thomas asked his mother what the note said, and she read aloud, “Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have enough good teachers for training him. Please teach him yourself.”

And that’s exactly what Thomas’ mother did; she homeschooled her child with devotion and dedication.

As the story goes, many years later after Thomas Edison’s mother passed on, and he was now one of the world’s greatest inventors, he found a folded paper among other family items. He opened the very same paper that had been handed to him to give to his mother and read the following message: “Your son is mentally ill. We won’t let him come to school anymore.”

At that moment, Edison realized what his mother had done for him so many years ago. He wrote in his diary: “Thomas Alva Edison was an addled child that, by a hero mother, became the genius of the century.”

In the book of Proverbs we learn: “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Can you imagine what might have happened to Thomas Edison if his mother had read to him the reckless and hurtful words written by his foolish teacher? He might never have invented the light bulb or made his many other contributions to society.

Thank God for the wise words of his mother! She created the context in which her son could grow to his full potential.

The Talmud teaches that speaking hurtful words is worse than cheating in business. At first glance that equation may not make any sense. What are words but mere sounds in the air? Taking someone’s money, however, is tangible damage! The Jewish sages, though, saw things differently. While cheating and stealing are certainly wrong and definitely crimes, they can potentially be undone. A person can become remorseful and return the stolen money. Even if that doesn’t happen, the effect of losing money doesn’t usually burden a person for life. Yet words cannot be taken back, and the damage of reckless words cannot be undone. They can scar a person for life.

Let’s take this message to heart and resolve to use our words for healing today. Just as hurtful words can cause uncontainable damage for life, so can wise words positively affect a person for life. May the words we use today change a life for the better.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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