August 27, 2020
Ki Teitze – Be Mindful of What Emerges from You
Ki Teitze teaches:“Motza sefatecha tishmor” — “Safeguard what crosses your lips,” your speech.
Speech is the most wondrous act of God’s Creation, making it possible for human beings to sing God’s praises, articulating the gratitude of all the other creatures. It’s also what the Gerer Rebbe calls “the most inward of our limbs,” vulnerable to revealing our private selves, even that which is cruel and destructive. That’s why we have this mitzvah — to guard our speech — motza sefatecha tishmor.
Last week’s parsha opened with instruction to set up judges and guards at Israel’s gates. This, too, the Rebbe understood as pertaining to guarding the gates of the selves. Our mouths are portals through which what’s inside us emerges and affects the world.
Writing a century earlier, Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev taught that guarding our words, so that we are loving, affects the way God will judge us on Yom Kippur. It’s not that if we’re good we’ll live, but rather, that we have agency to open the flow of God’s compassion by modeling compassion. We can warm God’s heart with the warm-hearted way in which we speak to others, reflecting acceptance, and with the generosity of spirit that emerges when we forgive and speak forgiveness. We walk in God’s ways, but God walks in ours as well.
And we might imagine that it is not just our speech that needs guarding, but all the avenues by which we touch and create our world. Food for thought during the month of Elul.
My blessing is that we use our mouths to offer praise and tender forgiveness. My blessing is that our kindly speech and actions influence the heavens, opening a flow of divine mercy.