42 - Do Not Curse part 3

One obvious reason it is prohibited to curse is to prevent the ill will that would result if the person who was cursed would hear about it.

We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chusim for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.


Last week’s stretch of the week was:  Is there a segment of K’lal Yisrael that you have a problem with?  Make it a point to make peace with your feelings toward this group by being dan l'kaf zchus, speaking with people who have a more sympathetic view of them, etc.  HaShem doesn't want His children walking around with bad feelings about His other children.

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.

Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #42


PART 3 – Maintaining Peaceful Relations


One obvious reason it is prohibited to curse is to prevent the ill will that would result if the person who was cursed would hear about it.  The Rambam wrote that the reason for this issur is to serve to protect the spiritual state of the one uttering the curse -- 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 that an ordinary person's curse can have.  Words have power, and by prohibiting us from uttering a curse, the Torah is preventing us from causing harm to another person.  "A promise has been given to the lips" (Mo'eid Katan 18a) - when Hashem breathed a "speaking spirit" (Targum Unkelos) into man, He gave man's words the power to affect those outside of him. While there is not a specific Torah prohibition against cursing a non Jew nevertheless, it is ethically wrong to curse anyone, and it is a crass reflection of bad character traits.  Certainly, one must be careful never to make a chillul HaShem or to cause animosity on any level.  One should strive constantly to maintain peaceful relations with everyone. 

(Excerpted from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)

Story(based on a true story)

“I can’t find the packet anywhere,” I shouted to my husband as I frantically leafed through stacks of papers on the dining room table.  “It was here this morning where you left it, I promise.  I signed where you said to last night, right before I drove carpool, and left it for you to get when you came home.”

Our tax returns were missing.  Fully filled out, months-of-work tax returns.  They hadn’t even been copied yet-my Chaim had been planning on doing that just before mailing them after he came home from work at lunch, which was about fifteen minutes ago.  And it was April fifteenth. My father-in-law always said, “You send your taxes in on crunch day with everyone else, they’ll be too overwhelmed to audit you.”  Chaim listened, but while my father-in-law finished his in February and sat them on a shelf until April, Chaim always seemed to finish the night before.  Hence my signing the returns only this morning, and his need to get to the post office NOW.

“Where exactly did you leave it?” he tossed back to me with irritation, rummaging through the desk in the kitchen.

“I told you, the dining room table! I put it smack in the middle so it wouldn’t get confused with the other stuff, and then I left to drive Moshe’s minyan carpool.”

“The middle of the table.  Right,” he snapped.  “Because nothing could possibly happen to it there.”

“But that’s where you left it for me!” I wanted to answer, but I stopped myself.  A fight wasn’t going to help.  We had to find this thing.  As I went through another pile of papers and contemplated calling the kids’ schools to see if one of them had somehow taken it in their backpack, I heard the vacuum start upstairs.

Camilla.  She was working today because her daughter’s Easter play was tomorrow, her regular day.  I now vaguely remembered letting her in and telling her to do the bedrooms as I ran out for my morning errands.  We hired Camilla a couple months ago largely because my neighbor said that not only did she do a good job, but she took initiative.  She often quickly straightened up my living room even on days when I asked her to clean upstairs.  Feeling Chaim staring holes into my back, I took the stairs two at a time, sheitel flapping.  

“Camilla!  Did you clean up the dining room today?!”  I screamed over the vacuum, which she immediately turned off.

“Yes, I clean,” she answered.  “Many papers today.  I straighten.  Much better, no?  Now children can do homework there.”

Oy.  I didn’t ask her to do that today, did I?  OK, calm breath.  “Where are the papers from the middle of the table?” I asked.

“All papers from the table now in piles at end of table,” she answered.  Except they weren’t-we’d already checked there.

“No, Camilla.  We are missing important papers that we need now.  Come help us find them.”

Down she came, but we soon recognized the futility of her helping, since she had no idea what we were looking for.  She kept insisting that she had not moved any papers, and I got more and more frustrated.  Papers couldn’t walk themselves, could they?  Finally, after fifteen minutes of searching the room and listening to her protests of innocence, I exploded.

“Camilla!” I shouted.  “I am tired of this!  Last week I couldn’t find my earrings!  The week before you threw out Chanie’s project!  We are paying you.  You need to be more careful!  We need these papers!  One day you’ll see what happens when someone loses something important to you and won’t admit it, and then you’ll understand!”

Camilla stopped still, and straightened.  “I am sorry, Mrs.” she said quietly.  “I do not know where papers are.  I finish bedrooms.  You pay me today, yes?”  And she went back upstairs.

I stopped too.  Wow, had I snapped.  Not good.  I hated when I did that, when it all came together in a perfect storm and I snapped and then as soon as I was done I knew it was bad.  I was annoyed at myself, annoyed at Chaim for being annoyed with me, and yes, annoyed at Camilla, but still. . .  I sheepishly looked up at Chaim.

“Nothing is worth that,” he said quietly. 

We were less frantic now.  The tax returns were still important, but somehow less so.  The two of us agreed that I would continue looking, and Chaim grabbed a muffin from the fridge and headed out the door for work.  I slowly made my way upstairs and found Camilla dusting a shelf.  I apologized for my outburst, and told her that I don’t wish harm on her.  And I promised her a small bonus.  I wondered if she was thinking, “I do not need to work for this crazy Jewish lady.”  

As I came down the stairs, the phone rang.  It was Chaim.  On the way out the door he had grabbed what he figured was the mail from our mailbox and had just looked at it.  There was the large, pre-stamped white envelope, that I had loaded our tax returns into this morning.  I had forgotten that I had done that.  Suddenly I understood why Camilla wasn’t able to help.  She was looking for papers while I had lost an envelope. 

I had said some horrible things to a person who was not at fault and had good intentions.  Words have power, and I didn’t actually want anything bad to happen to Camilla, who did so much for my house that I couldn’t do on my own.  Plus, I didn’t like myself for acting that way.  I had some work to do to make sure that I wasn’t a person who spoke like that to anyone ever again.

Questions for discussion:

Have there been occasions when I did not conduct myself as I should have in front of a non-Jew?

Does the fact that I may have less in common with someone affect how I treat them?

How do my interactions with the cleaning lady or others I come across during the day offer me an opportunity to improve my middos?

Stretch of the Week:

Show appreciation to those who are helpful to you.


Stretch Of The Week