<i>Beha?alotcha</I>: The Mouth That Roared

i>Chazal seem to agree that one culprit reigns supreme: the mouth. Our mouths can be a bottomless pit of peril: slander, bad language, undue criticism, harsh and hurting words spoken in anger, etc.

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Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
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What part of the body is it that gets us into the most trouble?

Is it the eye, which continually wanders and looks upon that which we cannot have; or casts a disapproving glance at our neighbor's good fortune?

Is it our hands, which strike a spouse or child, or find their way into someone else's till?

Or is it our legs, which speed up to join an unruly mob, yet slow down when another is in need?

No doubt there are other limbs, as well, which are instruments of misbehavior.

Yet Chazal seem to agree that one culprit reigns supreme: the mouth. Our mouths can be a bottomless pit of peril: slander, bad language, undue criticism, harsh and hurting words spoken in anger, etc.

Just look at our parsha as a perfect example. The people complain incessantly about their lives: Too far to walk; not enough to eat; bored with the same old Mahn. Joshua unfairly criticizes Eldad and Medad, the newest prophets. Then Miriam and Aharon speak disparagingly of Moshe. In fact, all of Sefer Bamidbar is replete with the misuse of language, from the spies? badmouthing of the Land of Israel, to Bilaam?s ill-fated attempt to curse the Jews.

Is it any wonder that the tongue has been compared to a snake, which must be kept behind two gates - the lips and the teeth, so that it cannot "bite" at will?

When Moshe is confronted by Miriam's illness - a punishment given her by Hashem - he responds by offering a simple, succinct prayer: ?El nah, r'fah nah lah.? - ?G-d, please heal her, I beseech you.? Rashi asks why Moshe did not recite a longer, more elaborate prayer. He answers: ?So no one should say, ?Our sister is in distress and Moshe waxes poetic???

What a marvelous observation! Consider: when we face a crisis, what do we usually do? We add all kinds of tefilot, from Tehilim to mi sheberachs. What does Moshe Rabbeinu do? He trims his petition to five little (very little!) words, which contain but eleven letters.

If your heart is in it, if you have faith that G-d is a shomea T'fila, then you needn't over-elaborate. Less is more. Just say what you feel, and mean what you say. The smallest phrase will reverberate in the halls of the King of Kings, and your message will surely be delivered.
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Rabbi Weiss is Director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra?anana.


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