Parashat Beha’alotecha: Mind your words

Wherever we go in today’s society, we are bombarded by ads about what we should and should not be putting in our mouths. The ads tells us to eat this so that we can lose weight; to not eat that because it could raise our cholesterol; and we constantly hear promises of how ingesting a certain product will make us strong, beautiful, and healthy. But what about what comes out of our mouths?

If our tradition teaches us anything, it is the power of words — for good or evil, pain or joy. In this week’s portion Miriam is stricken with tzara‘at, a type of skin infliction that is similar to leprosy. The
rabbis are clear as to why: she slandered Moses by both insulting his wife, and then claiming that God speaks with her as well. As a result of what comes out of her mouth, she is stricken with disease and quarantined outside the camp; and only the prayerful words of her brother
Moses lead to her healing. “Please God, heal her now.” (Num. 12:13)

There is a vital teaching here that we need to remember at all times. When we speak ill of another person, we are creating a disease that affects the entire community. Like a disease that is easily passed from one to another, those words can become epidemic, a matrix for marginalisation and racism. Like tzara‘at; rumors, gossip, and slander change the way that we perceive someone at such a basic level that the entire community becomes contaminated.

Lashon Hara”, the “evil tongue”, hurts everyone, and therefore I applaud the SAUPJ for their initiative to counter racism in our own language and environment (see below).

Don’t let racism be our Judaism
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Adrian M Schell
(Source: Rabbi Michael Barclay )

Anti Racism Initiative of the SAUPJ

The SAUPJ, together with the SAJBD, is starting an initiative to stamp out racism in the Jewish community.   Starting in the home, among family and friends, we can stand up to those whose Yiddish vocabulary is limited to Shoch and Shwartze.   These derogatory terms cause great hurt – whilst we expect people to address us and talk about us in a respectful way so should we realise that referring to blacks in that way should be buried in the past.  I urge you to point out to anyone using those words that they are unnecessary and undignified.

Don’t let racism be our Judaism.

 Monica Solomon
National Chair, SAUPJ

 

 

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