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Not Just Any Stones!

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil

There is never a dull moment in Israel!

Just this week a thief returned two archaeological treasures with a confession note – after apparently experiencing 20 years of bad luck. The 2,000-year-old sling stones were taken from the ancient city of Gamla in the Golan Heights in July 1995, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said.

They were returned in a bag to the Museum of Islamic and Near Eastern Cultures in Israel’s southern city of Be’ersheva, along with a note from the thief.

The note in Hebrew read: “These are two Roman ballista balls from Gamla from a residential quarter at the foot of the summit. I stole them in July 1995 and since then they have brought me nothing but trouble. Please, do not steal antiquities!”

The thief did not elaborate on the nature of his or her bad luck. But it’s interesting to note that the stones were used by Romans against the Jews who were trying to prevent the conquest of the hilltop city. Perhaps herein lies the key to this persons ‘bad luck’.

Judaism views telling the truth very seriously.

The Talmud (Sotah 42a) says that there are four groups of people that do not merit greeting the Divine presence. One of them is liars. The Ben Ish Chai (Ben Yehoyada ibid) explains that the liar’s punishment is measure for measure: through lying they demonstrated that they sought to find favour in the eyes of men, and in doing so ignored the presence of the omniscient Almighty. Therefore, they do not merit being in His presence.

Parshat Matot relates the importance of speaking the truth.

“If a man makes a vow…he must not profane his word. He must do all that he expressed verbally.” (30:3).

Along these lines the Talmud (Pesachim 113b) also says that there are three types of people that G‑d despises and one of them is those that say one thing, while having completely different feelings in their heart.

On a very practical level it is clear that when a person accustoms himself to speaking truthfully, people come to trust him, as the verse (Mishlei 12:19) says: “A true tongue will be established forever.” On the other hand, one who is a habitual liar will not be trusted, as the verse continues: “But a lying tongue, just for a moment”. I.e. his believability is short lived.

In 1994 a Japanese scientist Dr Masaru Emoto had an idea to prove that spoken words have a direct and verifiable effect upon water. He conducted tests where cups of pure water drawn from a spring were positioned in rooms. People were then placed in different rooms with the water and told to make positive or negative statements. A small volume of the water was then frozen at -25 degrees for three hours, after which the frozen water was removed and examined under an extremely powerful microscope.

The results were awesome.

Positive statements such as compliments, words of praise or affection caused the formation of crystals in a clear and beautiful way. Whilst negative statements, insults, curses or angry words made the ice crystals form in a disorderly and bad looking manner.

Dr Masaru Emoto concluded “The world it shows is truth, and there is no doubt that many messages essential to our lives are hidden in it.”

How powerful are our words! They affect the whole world around us. We may not see it but deep beneath the surface something is happening each time we talk.

The Torah relates that when the Bnei Yisrael were to enter and conquer Eretz Yisrael, if they found that their house was hit with Tsarat (leprosy), then in certain circumstances the house would need to be dissembled and rebuilt.

Eventually the Canaanite-built houses that they occupied became plagued and the walls had to be dismantled.

If G-d was granting them the land as a blessing, why did they need to dismantle and rebuild so many houses?

The Zohar (3:50a) explains that when the idolaters built their houses, each stone was placed in the name and in honour of their gods.

Desiring to eradicate idolatry from the Land, G-d plagued the houses so that their deconstruction would purge the idolatrous impurity. When the Jews then rebuilt their houses, they instead dedicated them in the service of, and as an abode for, G-d.

It is for this reason that we make a ChanukatHabayit – dedication of a house; whether one has built it, bought it or is even just renting it. Regardless of who the previous inhabitants were, we inaugurate our use of the house by purging it of spiritual impurities through expressing our thanks to G-d for giving us the resources to obtain a place to live, while simultaneously affirming our dedication to use our home as an instrument for doing His will.

We get rid of all bad influences that might have been present in the building. We eradicate the effect that bad speech by its previous owners might have had on those walls.

In this way, our dwelling truly becomes an abode for G-d.

Via the mouth, G-d has granted us a powerful tool to connect with him and influence the world around us.

The thief in Israel thought he was just stealing stones, but perhaps (just perhaps!) these stones had been affected by the people throwing them and by their surroundings.

The only time the Torah ever tells us to distance ourselves from something is in relation to falsehood. (Shemot 23:7).

In telling the truth we emulate our Creator regarding whom it says: “The seal of G‑d is truth” (Shabbat 55a).

The Sefer Chassidim (Sefer Chassidim s. 47) writes that one who speaks only truth can actually change destiny by decreeing something to happen—and it will.

Remember words are free; it’s how you use them that may cost you!

As we end the book of Bamidbar and enter the book of Devarim (words) let us think before we speak, enhance the words that come out into the open and enrich our surroundings and the world we live in.

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