> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Kindness Hacks

Positive and Negative Speech

Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12-15 )

by Shoshanna Dresner

Two birds, cedar wood, crimson thread and hyssop.

This is the unique combination of materials used in the purification process for someone who sinned by speaking badly about someone.

Each item demonstrates fascinating symbolism connected to the transgression. The cedar wood grows tall and represents haughtiness; the hyssop, a lowly bush, represents the idea of humility. The crimson wool is dyed with a pigment made from a lowly creature, again symbolizing humility.

The birds, perhaps more obviously, are for the chatter and chirping connected to gossip. (Rashi)

But why use two birds?

Rabbi S. Ganzfried explains that one bird represents negative speech, and the second positive speech. This teaches us that we aren’t supposed to avoid speech altogether, but rather to use it positively.

Rabbi Pesach Khron tells a story of a boy who unfortunately was ill and dying. He requested that at his funeral one particular teacher should be the one to speak. He explained that when he was younger the boys in the class were not getting on. To help improve the situation the teacher gave the students papers with the name of each classmate, and all the boys had to write the good qualities that he saw in the other boys. The dying boy shared that everything that he had accomplished was because of what was on that paper. It was this that had encouraged him to succeed and had brought out his good qualities, and therefore it was this teacher he wanted to speak at his funeral.

How many times do we think a compliment but not voice it?

Instead of merely thinking them, transform positive thoughts into speech and use them to build people!

Praise, encourage, teach and connect.

Shabbat shalom!

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