Another God in Therapy post…
But according to the mystic sages, the holiday of Passover, which begins this coming Monday night, has many, many layers of connections and meanings—a lifetime would not be enough time to explore them all.
For example, sages point out that the original Hebrew word for Passover, Pesach* can mean “mouth that spoke.” Pe means mouth and Sach means spoke.
One of the main activities of the Passover holiday is to tell or “speak”, the history of our people’s liberation from slavery in Egypt.
We tell it, aloud at the seder, which we love so much we do it two nights in a row!**
In Egypt, as just about everyone knows, the children of Israel were enslaved by Pharoah, the quintessential bad guy. In another word-play, the word Pharoah^ can be read as “Bad Mouth.”
The contrast between speaking and sharing the story of liberation and connection to the Creator vs. the speech of a heartless tyrant, comes alive in the retelling.
(Plus a delicious festive meal follows. After all, this is a Jewish holiday.)
But Passover isn’t the only Biblical event that is related to speech. In fact, in many places in the Hebrew Bible, the most corrupting, damaging, harm is caused by people who speak badly of others, or slander others, or humiliate or harm others to their face (or behind their back.)
The power of our speech—for good or bad—is far greater than we realize.
Think about it. Remember when you were a child and someone said something lovely to you? If your memory of this is hazy, try remembering if and when someone put you down or you found out someone was gossiping about you (whether the gossip was true or not). Perhaps a peer made fun of you; perhaps an adult put you down, or vice versa.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is one of the most inane, and easily disproved, lies ever told.
We know that verbal abuse can leave life-long scars. And, many people who were verbally and physically abused say the verbal abuse was actually more painful.
Verbal abuse, teasing, gossip, slander, all humiliate, and humiliation, agrees all the Jewish sages, does indeed harm. Verbal abuse that leads to humiliation is actually likened to murder.
The soul is a sensitive being, and whether it is our own or someone else’s, the soul suffers terribly from harsh words, but is nurtured by kind ones.
So remember: Don’t be a Pharoah. And try not hanging out with any Pharoahs, either.
*Pronounced Pay-Sach, with the ch like the ch in Loch Ness.
**When we’re living and celebrating Passover in the land of Israel, we only make one seder, in other countries, we make two.
^In the original Hebrew, Pharoah is read and pronounced, Pah-Roh, which sounds very similar to Peh-Rah or bad mouth.