We are here to improve our relationships with others
in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.
Last week’s stretch of the week was: Choose one person for whom you bear a grudge and think of ways you can allow yourself to forgive them by focusing on their positive traits.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Do Not Curse
The Torah forbids us to curse any Jew, as it says: “Do not curse the nation, for they are blessed” (Bamidbar 22:12). This refers to a man or woman, child or adult, or even oneself, with or without using HaShem’s (G-d’s) Name. We learn from this that our words wield great power, whether for good or for bad.
One obvious reason it is prohibited to curse is to prevent the negative feelings that would result if the person who was cursed knew about it. The Rambam wrote that the reason for this prohibition is to serve to protect the spiritual state of the one uttering the curse so that he should not accustom himself to losing his temper or taking revenge. (The Rambam does not mention anything about the possible damage to the one he is cursing, implying that the curse itself does not actually cause harm.)
The Sefer HaChinuch differs with the Rambam, pointing out that all nations and cultures are concerned about the effects of the curse of an ordinary person. By prohibiting us from uttering a curse, the Torah prevents us from causing harm to another person.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
(This story does not directly illustrate the mitzva of not cursing another person. Rather, the emphasis is placed upon the transformative impact of blessings and positive speech.)
I didn’t grow up religious, yet I had a very wholesome and happy childhood. My parents are extremely moral and raised me to genuinely care about others. When I stumbled upon Judaism I discovered that many of the traditional beliefs and values were those with which I was raised. However, there were others that were different.
One area that was new to me was how Judaism expects us to relate to the concept of speech. As I was growing up I generally observed people saying what was on their mind without really considering the consequences. It’s hard to even describe what I mean except to illustrate my experience with my biological family on the day of my wedding.
Prior to my wedding, I studied Jewish marital laws and customs with a female teacher who was experienced in teaching engaged women in observant communities. I learned that brides traditionally give blessings to others on their wedding day. I didn’t give this much thought until I attended my first religious wedding shortly before my own. As I wished mazel tov to the bride, she showered me with blessings and good wishes. This touched me so deeply, making me feel so special that I resolved to do the same for the guests at my own wedding.
Our wedding day arrived and, as I sat on my throne greeting our guests, I gave each individual a personalized blessing. I looked into the eyes of each person who approached me and prayed that all of their desires would be fulfilled for good. I knew that my words were especially powerful on my wedding day and wanted to use this power to impact others in a positive way.
After the wedding, a few of my secular relatives shared that the reception (kabalas panim) was their favorite part of the wedding. They said that I had made them feel so special and cared for because of the blessings I had given them. They commented that they’d never seen this sort of ritual before and were absolutely delighted by it. I told them that even though a bride has a special opportunity to bless others, anyone has the ability to bless another person at any time. I emphasized that our words really have the power to create positive energy in the world. This was an aspect of spirituality they had never thought about before.
I see that not only do my words truly have influence; they really can make (or break) someone’s day. To see beyond my own life and be able to wish another well truly creates a sense of goodness and deep connection between people that I only discovered once I realized the true impact of my words.
If it became common practice for us to bless others how would this impact the Jewish people?
How is the concept of “not cursing” applicable to the average person?
What character traits are behind an individual who curses other people?
Do most people feel their words are powerful or are “just words”? Would people be more careful with their speech if they realized its impact?
Stretch of the Week:
Make it a point to verbally wish others well this week.