For the week ending 25 May 2019 / 20 Iyyar 5779

The Pious Word

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Helen

Dear Rabbi,
Are the words and the speech of the righteous different or more powerful than that of ordinary people? Why would this be?

Dear Helen,

The Talmudic Sages taught (Berachot 6b): A G-d fearing person’s words are heard and accepted, as it is written (Ecc. 12:13), “In the end, all having been heard, fear G-d and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man.” Furthermore, based on various readings of this verse, the Sages presented three observations: The world was created for only such a person. He is equivalent to the entire world. The entire world was created only to hearken to him.

Why are the words of such a person heard more than that of other people?

For one, a G-d fearing person is humbled before G-d and man. This enables people to accept his words. It is the nature of people to oppose and reject the ideas and words of the haughty and the arrogant because it threatens their sense of self-worth and is demeaning. However, the non-threatening humility of the righteous is so disarming that people generally find it pleasurable to listen to them.

Another reason is that the ideas and words of ordinary people are jaded by self-interest, personal desires, and imperfect character traits. Thus, the words of even a well-meaning person are naturally suspect of bias and subjectivity. However, the extent to which a righteous person is free of all that, his perspective and words on any matter are naturally regarded with more sincerity, insight and truth.

In addition, an ancient Jewish adage asserts: “Words which emerge from the heart, enter the heart.” This means that while vacuous words of no substance are not even heard by the ears, sincere, earnest, heartfelt, substantive ideas penetrate deep into the heart of the listener. And since the righteous speak from a pure, unoccluded heart, their words have a profound effect on others.

The previous explanations are based on the understanding that the verse refers to the words of the righteous being heard and accepted by other people. However, the fact that the words of the G-d fearing are heard applies as well to being accepted in the metaphysical realm.

One example would be through the venue of prayer. A pure and pious person’s speech is very spiritual. It is thus able to penetrate the supernal realms and rise directly before G-d. Such pristine and powerful prayer is heard, received and granted by He whom the righteous fears.

Another example of this would be regarding the way in which the righteous are actually able, with their “power of speech,” to make decrees that can be realized in the heavenly or worldly realms. This is because, through “aligning” themselves with G-d, they actually become G‑dlike, whereby their will, insofar as it is in tune with the Will of G-d, is acted upon by G-d in order to bring the will of the righteous into being. This is exemplified by another proverbial teaching in Jewish sources: “The tzaddik decrees and G-d fulfills.”

This understanding is particularly harmonious with one of the observations of the Sages mentioned above, namely that the entire world was created in order to hearken to the G-d fearing person. However, since the word for hearken in this teaching is l’ztavot, whichcan also mean “join,” an additional meaning is that it is fitting for the entire world to join or attach themselves to a righteous, G-d fearing person. In so doing, one would be connecting himself to the earnest, enlightening, and inspiring influence of his speech, the transformative power of which, through prayer and blessings, makes a better world for all.

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