Waste of Words by Tzvi Atkin


Towards the end of Parshat Emor, the Torah tells the story of the Mekaleil, a man who cursed Hashem and was therefore pelted to death with stones.  The Torah says that the name of the man’s mother was “Shelomit Bat (daughter of) Divri.” Following this incident, the Torahlists the Halachot of punishments that one receives for killing or causing damage to a human or an animal.  Why is the name of the Mekaleil’s mother important? In addition, what is the connection between these two topics?

Rashi says that the mother was called “Divri” because she was a gossiper (Divri is translated as “speak”).  Rabbeinu Bachaya comments that the majority of a person’s character traits are acquired from his or her mother, because he or she was in the mother’s womb for nine months.  The Sefer HaChinuch explains that the reason that the man was punished was not because of the actual cursing of Hashem.  Rather, he was punished because he was given the power of speech to do good things, but instead used it to do something improper.  Inheriting his mother’s habit of excessive speaking, the man wasted his words by using them for a negative purpose. 

The Aished HaNechalim explains the juxtaposition of these two sections.  He says that the reason that the damages of man and animal follow the incident of the man who curses is because the man failed to realize the difference between man and animal – man has the ability to speak while an animal does not.  If the man would have recognized the greatness of the power of speech, he would have never said something so improper.  It is of utmost importance to appreciate our gift of speech and not use it to say any harmful or unnecessary words. 

-Adapted from a Shiur by Rabbi Yissocher Frand

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