The son of the king was terribly sick. After the top doctors examined the boy they came to the conclusion that there was one remedy that could save the prince; they needed a certain enzyme produced by a rare fish. Immediately, the king dispatched an emissary to procure the enzyme.
After an arduous journey, the emissary returned and came before the king. “Your Highness, I’ve brought you the dog enzyme,” announced the emissary proudly. The king was furious and had him thrown into prison. That night the emissary had a dream. In it, his limbs were arguing about who commanded the most power. The legs said they were because without them they wouldn’t have journeyed anywhere. The arms said it was them because otherwise, the body couldn’t carry the enzyme. The mouth said, “It is certainly me. I got us locked up and only I can get us out. Watch and see!”
The next day, the emissary was brought before the king. The king berated him for bringing a dog enzyme instead of the fish enzyme. “Your Highness, I realize now what has happened. In my native Hebrew, ‘dag’ means ‘fish.’ English is still my second language. When I gave you the enzyme, I must have said the Hebrew term by mistake. I did indeed bring back the fish enzyme.” The prince was saved and the emissary was freed.
The wisest of men, King Solomon, said in Proverbs, “Death and life are in the tongue.” The above story illustrates how the tongue can literally cause one’s demise or one’s salvation. This week’s portion, Matot, reveals the power of words. It talks about taking vows. According to the Torah, were a person to say, “I hereby vow not to drink orange juice again;” orange juice would take on the same status as pork or blood which are prohibited by Jewish law. How wondrous is this?! The Torah grants such power to our words that they could carry the same weight as a command from the Almighty!
It becomes clear that our words are even more powerful than we ever imagined. As such, we must be very intentional with what we say. May we merit to recognize the power of our words and only use them for good.
– Rabbi Liad Braude