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The Mouth Trap

By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum

While a mousetrap is made to catch mice, a mouthtrap ensnares people. The Torah tells us that the first great orator to entrap lots of people was Nimrod who used his great power of speech to mislead people into serving avoda zarah. The Torah describes him as being a “gibor tzayid” – a great trapper. Rashi explains this to mean one who entraps others with his great oratorical skills. Esav, too, possessed this great skill and is described as “ki tzayid b’fiv.” And so since time immemorial, people with great oratorical skills have used them for both good and evil. The salesman uses this skill to sell his product while the priest uses them to sell his religion. Some have used it to spread love while others have used it to spread hate. Some like the evil snake have used it to defy G-d’s word, while others have used it to bring their people closer to their Creator.

There is no greater power in the world than the power of speech and it is man alone that possesses this awesome power. Misuse it and we will receive the same punishment that the “Nochosh Hakadmoni” received. Use it properly such as for Torah learning and for prayer, and it will bring an endless flow of blessings.

While most other religious leaders spread their beliefs through the use of their powerful oratorical skills, the Torah tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu was both a “kvad peh” and a “kevad loshon.” He both stuttered and was also a poor speaker. The truth would have to speak for itself and not be a result of Moshe’s great oratorical skills.

We live in times where the spoken word is in perpetual motion with news and views bombarding us from a hundred different directions. Few people are as wise and skilled as the great sage Rebbi Meir who was able to separate the chaff from the kernels. A skilled salesman can easily sell us a worthless bill of goods and a good preacher can easily convince us of the merit of his cause. Clever charlatans use their great hypnotic power of speech to mesmerize millions into buying anything from snake oil to religion without us realizing that we are being taken for a ride. Evangelists use it to sell a worthless god who cannot see, hear or talk. When we allow these words to enter our ears by listening to these perpetual talking machines, we risk having them cause great harm. Even if we have the sense to reject their message or content, they can leave a residual effect on our thinking process and subconscious mind.

Man must learn to use this very special gift in order to benefit mankind and make the world a better place to live in rather than to destroy it. A kind word can be the greatest and most precious gift you can ever give or receive. So let’s not just count our every word but let’s also make every word count!

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