Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles
The Parsha of nedarim differs from the rest of the Torah in that Moshe told it directly to the leaders of the Jewish people in a very condensed fashion. This comes to teach us the extraordinary power of speech. Our mouths should be sanctified with pure words. If we pollute it with lashon hara and other verbal transgressions, we destroy our gift. Our Torah cannot be effective nor can our prayers reach the heavens if we profane our speech. By using concise language, Hashem wanted to teach us how careful we must be with every word. The Parsha was taught directly to the leaders because it was only great Torah scholars who could accurately communicate these terse words to the people.
Rav Itzele Blazer once came to Rav Chaim Berlin in a dream and said that all judgments in heaven are difficult but those relating to speech are exceedingly severe. The destruction of the Beit Hamikdash came because of baseless hatred. Enmity often arises from corrupted speech. The writings of the Chofetz Chaim teach us that improving our shemirat halashon can bring tremendous salvation. Rebbetzin Kanievski often tells women to study two halachot every day. By reviewing the relevant laws we train ourselves to be more guarded when we speak.
There’s an art to speaking but there’s also a science. We must recognize that there is an aspect of holiness within each of us. Speech puts man above all creation. It is the quill of the heart and the medium of connecting the deepest aspect of ourselves, with the world around us. Whatever we say has spiritual energy. Only a person who feels disconnected from Hashem can speak improperly.
There are different levels of communication. The first is everyday speech. Every mundane conversation is recorded and will be replayed at the yom hadin. Parents must teach children to keep their word and in turn they must be a model for their children. The second level is vows and oaths. With speech, we can create fences and render something forbidden. The final level is the power of speech to impact worlds. If a person is careful with what emerges from his mouth, then his words take on unbelievable strength. Death and life are in the hands of the tongue. A tzaddik can decree and Hashem will follow through.
The Nesivos Sholom writes that a Jew’s mouth is like a vessel in the Temple. When flour was placed in the pan, the sacrifice took on holiness because the vessel was holy. So too words that emerge from a sanctified mouth are sacred. Our mouths are like a kli sharet for Hashem. Tefilah, studying Torah, reciting Kiddush, making brachot are all expressions of elevated speech.
If speech is so significant, we must focus on how we can use it positively. In Shachrit we say, “You give life to them all.” We can emulate Hashem’s ways by becoming “life builders.” Speaking kindly and compassionately is a great form of chesed. Greeting a stranger with a smile tells him he’s important, he counts. A leader in particular must be careful what emerges from his mouth. On a micro-level this refers to the head of the family too who must teach his children the importance of pure speech. The Mikdash Halevi points out that the only halachot relevant for a boy of 12 and a girl of 11 is the area of nedarim. Our children must be ingrained with the weightiness of speech.
The beit hamikdash was destroyed and the Shechina left us because of sinat chinam-baseless hatred, lashon hara, and profane speech. Let us re-commit ourselves during these weeks of bein hametzraim to studying the laws of shemirat halashon and elevating our speech.