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Sam Lund - Dvar Torah

My Torah portion is called Tazria. It is in the book of Leviticus. It speaks about childbirth, and the rituals that were followed for the birth mother at the time.  It then describes a skin disease called Tzara’at, and the way it was identified, the treatment of it and how the person who had the disease would respond.  I studied how the Rabbis interpreted this as not a disease, but a punishment for a variety of things, the most common being slandering someone. I will be speaking about language, how it can make or break the world, and how it has done so.

 

Language is quite a fascinating thing, in my opinion. Simply by creating certain pitches with your voice box, and using your tongue and mouth to make different sounds, you can either make people avoid or respect you, depending on what sounds you made. Just like nuclear bombs, language is a concept humans made that is a breakthrough but incredibly dangerous to themselves and must be used wisely. 

 

Lucky for you guys, I will not be talking about social media in this speech since that topic has been way overdone. That said, language can be used to spread misinformation or embarrassing secrets about a person and rumors can travel like wildfire. 

 

There is  an old Yiddish story that relates to this topic: A man goes throughout his community slandering his Rabbi. He starts to feel bad. He wants to do anything that he can to make up his wrongdoing to the Rabbi. The Rabbi tells the man to go and fetch his feather pillows, cut them open, and let the wind take the feathers. The man goes back to the Rabbi, pleased that he did as he was told. Thenthe Rabbi says, “Now go and gather all the feathers. Though you may be sincerely remorseful and truly desire to correct the evil which you have done, it is about as possible to repair the damage done by your words as it will be to recover the feathers.” 

 

This shows that the damage of spreading bad rumors is irreparable, so it is taught by the Torah that if you commit such a sin, you will be punished with Tzara’at and will have to think about what you have done in isolation as punishment.

Now for the good part of language. I also find it quite interesting that if you press your fingers on ivory keys on a wooden contraption with a bunch of wood things that bangs on strings of different thickness at certain amounts of force in a certain time, then you will have a crowd of people applauding you and saying how talented you are. I believe that music is a language. It has different rules, a script and different ways of speaking. And recently, as part of my mitzvah project of performing piano for residents at old age homes, one of the people who attended the concert said that music is a language that unites all people and rises above their differences and judgements of one another. 

It’s the same with regular language. You can utterly sway a massive audience by choosing the right words to say. It has also saved the world. For example, during the cold war, a Russian submarine had mistakenly believed that the nuclear war had started, and for the nukes to be fired, three out of the three senior officers had to agree. Two of the senior officers agreed, but one of them, Vasili Arkhipov refused, preventing a global catastrophe.

 

To conclude, words and language are very powerful tools that can be used to make or break the world. Using words correctly can get people to respect you. But, do not use them on others to hurt them, as you are causing much more harm than you know. Keep this in mind always.

Today is my bar mitzvah, and in the lead up to today, while doing my mitzvah project, I've  performed lots of concerts, (not just for the mitzvah project) and it has made me realize the amount of positive connection that comes from this. I have also realized how much I could potentially get if I were to pursue a career in music. And so I have decided to work much harder on my music in my transition to adulthood. I will also strive to think before I speak, as the Torah teaches me, and use my words optimally so that they may bring good in the world.

Shabbat shalom.

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