Watch that Naughty Tongue!
This week’s parsha, Balak, commences with Balak being appointed king over Moav. As the Jewish people make their way around the outskirts of the land, Balak thought that his country would be plundered as his allies were (in last week’s parsha, Sichon and Og were destroyed). The Moavites knew that the Israelites posed no threat to them, seeing that Hashem had forbidden them to wage war against them; nonetheless, they still feared that they would be destroyed.
In order to conquer the Jews, Balak was advised to combat the Jews the very same way the Jews combat all other nations, through prayer. Furthermore, Balak appointed Bilam, a man who used the impure forces of the universe, to pronounce a curse against the Jewish people. Bilam was a powerful magician, dream interpreter, and profound philosopher who was capable of manipulating the powers of tumah- impurity- in this world for his own personal benefit.
Balak’s main argument was that the Jews defeated many nations, with the power of their speech—through crying out to Hashem in prayer. Moreover, he wanted Bilam to defeat the Jews through his power of speech, by cursing them.
Incredibly enough, we can see from this week's parsha how even the nations that wish to curse us recognize the power given to us by our tongue. We can use it for elevating ourselves and becoming closer to our G-d, or we can denigrate ourselves through speaking evil.
Unfortunately today, we live in a society that uses the beautiful words Hashem has given us to speak evil. The secret to overcoming this impulsive behavior of gossiping and disrespecting others is through recognizing that we are in control of what comes out of our mouths. Once we come to terms with the fact that we control our bodies, and that our bodies don’t control us, we will become empowered to think twice before we speak, and this will get us to understand that the ramification induced by our impulsive tongue are in fact fruitless.