Harvey S. Hecker Character Development Series: Our words are a powerful force to build – and destroy.
#7: Ethical Speech
Originally published by Rabbi Shraga Simmons on aish.com
At mankind’s birth on Rosh Hashanah 5777 years ago, God blew into Adam a “living soul” – defined as the power of speech.1 Ergo, verbal communication is our highest creative power, what distinguishes man from beast. With proper use of speech, we tap into our greatest potential; its misuse is a grave offense. “Whoever desires life,” King David advised, “should guard his tongue.”2
Words are our primary vehicle for expression, the bridge between ethereal thought and the tangible projection of self onto reality. Language enables us to share perspectives and learn from one another, fueling our quest for wisdom.
Speech is at the core of humanity. Our world was created with 10 utterances3 (“God said: “Let there be light”),4 and God transmitted the code of ethics at Sinai by speaking the Ten Commandments.5 In defining the differences between wise and foolish, the Talmud relates solely to the use of speech.6