“I have no doubt that Writer Beware’s and Absolute Write’s and P&E’s warnings are costing Bouncing Bobby business…and I couldn’t be more delighted. To me it’s a mitzvah, I think that’s the term, to the entire universe of aspiring writers to tell them the truth about Robert Fletcher and his schemes, not to mention scams.”
A mitzvah? A “mitzvah” is a commandment from G-d. Most specifically it is a Jewish word that is intended to reference the 613 commandments specified in the Torah (Jewish Bible). Among those 613 commandments includes the following:
- Not to embarrass others Lev. 19:17
- Not to speak derogatorily of others Lev. 19:16
- Not to take revenge Lev. 19:18
- Not to bear a grudge Lev. 19:18
- Not to blaspheme Ex. 22:27
- Not to appoint judges who are not familiar with judicial procedure Deut. 1:17
Forget the name calling (“Bouncing Bobby”) for now, but a mizvah? A commandment from G-d to embarrass, speak derogatorily, take revenge, bear a grudge, take delight and blaspheme? Sorry Ann, this isn’t a “mitzvah.” Very poor choice of words and a secular misuse of a sacred term in the Jewish religion.
We sought out a rabbinical perspective on this. The query was, “How can a non-jew use the word “mitzvah” as a calling to bring about harm to an individual?”
“By her using the word mitzvah she shows how disconnected she is from word that she is using. This can reflect her disconnection from other words and the words that other people use. More importantly it reflects something within her that is disconnected. Since the word means the connection to the source of life therefore she may be using it (without realizing why) to show how far her personal disconnection goes.” – Rabbi Yosef Serebryansk
“There is no place . . . to use or misuse our Hebrew language, in order to ‘put someone down’ and hurt them . . . . We cannot control everyone else’s speech. However, it is correct to take an opportunity and point out your feeling when a beautiful Hebrew term is corrupted and used in your presence, so freely. We should always look for opportunities to help others in their understanding of our Torah and its teachings and restore a perfectly wonderful word to its pristine meaning.” – Rabbi Sanford Shudnow
“When we speak to family, friends or acquaintances in a positive and considerate way, our words become instruments of harmonious energies. This spirit can uplift, encourage and create bonds of friendship and good will. When we engage in negative speech, we create just the opposite energy. Judaism is not just a religion of action but also a religion of words. Hashem created the natural world with words . . . We can create or destroy our social world with the words we choose. May we all work harder to be more sensitive, uplifting and positive in how we speak to one another rather than about one another.” – Rabbi Joel Tessler
“How we use our tongues determines the kind of society, the quality of community, we can all live in. The temptation to speak ill of someone else – whether to vent anger, to consolidate a friendship, or to get even – is pervasive and enticing.” - Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson
“I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t take me long to come up with examples of when the gift of speech is used poorly. . . . But I am intrigued by the comments . . . hearing these words refer to the mitzvah practice of attending carefully to our use of speech. ‘Guard what comes out of your lips.’ This refers to keeping one’s tongue. . . .This mitzvah requires full-time duty — day and night — because the opening of the mouth needs to be so guarded. . . .The rest of our deeds all depend upon guarding the mouth. . . .It is so remarkably difficult to guard our speech. We speak so easily, so well, so cleverly, so much. We revel in our ability to communicate, to impress, to have impact. We readily acknowledge the obvious truth that words can wound, yet we resist the enormous level of commitment required to use our tongues wisely. . . . Are we really entitled to speak for the purpose of looking smart, or right, or funny, regardless of the consequences for others? I suggest a different set of criteria for speech, guided by the mitzvah of guarding our tongues, with the goal of bringing a quality of mindfulness to our speech and its consequences. Before speaking, we might ask ourselves, ‘Is this a necessary thing to say?’ ‘Might it be hurtful?’ ‘Is it helpful to the world?’”- Rabbi Amy Eilberg
“Jewish tradition teaches us that there are 613 mitzvot, 613 commandments hidden (and not so hidden) within the Torah. . . .But of all these 613 mitzvot that seem to cover nearly every possible aspect of a person’s life there is one that I believe is the most difficult of all to keep and when transgressed carries with it the most devastating and potentially destructive consequences of all. Which Mitzvah do I choose? The mitzvah is called in Hebrew simply, SHMIRAT HALASHON – ‘Guarding Your Tongue.’. . . .Think of how easy it is to use the power of the internet’s indiscriminate mass communication capability to destroy reputations, spread slander and misinformation about anyone at any time from the President of the United States to the girl who sits next to you in class. We call this transgression in Hebrew, LASHON HARA – ‘HURTFUL SPEECH’ and it finds its way into nearly every aspect of our lives – from the bedroom to the board room. . . .According to the rabbis of the Talmud – ‘Lashon Hara’ is any speech from which another may be injured or hurt. Even if what you say is true – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. If your speech hurts another human being, tarnishes their reputation, causes another to think less of them, then it is still ‘Lashon Hara,’ and that is why ‘guarding our tongues’ is the hardest mitzvah of all.” [emphasis added] – Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, PhD
Blog Postings in Reply:
“BSCTT Communications Page.” Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah Home Page. Web. 09 Mar. 2011. <http://www.bethsholom.org/communicate.htm#MESS>.
Crispin, A.C. “Strategic Book Group / Strategic Book Publishing / Eloquent Books / SBM – Page 20 – Absolute Write Water Cooler.” Absolute Write. 13 Feb. 2011. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. <http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=5823186>.
Eilberg, Rabbi Amy. “It’s Time to Remember the Mitzvah of Guarding Speech.” JWeekly.com. 8 Sept. 2000. Web. 9 Mar. 2011.
Jewish Values Online. Web. 09 Mar. 2011. <http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org>.
“Mitzvah.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitzvah>.
Reuben, Rabbi Steven Carr. “The Most Difficult Mitzvah in the Torah.” Kehillat Israel. 6 Nov. 2009. Web. 9 Mar. 2011. <http://kehillatisrael.org/prayer_shabbat.php?id=2165>.
“The Mitzvah of Civilized Speech | Ethics, Justice & Contemporary Issues.” Judaism @ AJU AJULA American Jewish University Formerly University of Judaism. Web. 09 Mar. 2011. <http://judaism.ajula.edu/Content/ContentUnit.asp?CID=1526&u=5407&t=0>.