This Shabbat:

Friday Candle Lighting: 7:50 PM

Shabbat Ends: 8:50 PM

Torah Message:

Sticks and Stones

“…an utterance of her lips…” (30:07)

We are all so delicate. Our egos are so fragile. Our Sages tell us to run away from honor, but we all need self-worth. One of the names for the soul is kavod — honor. As we say each day in our prayers, “So that my soul (kavod) might sing to you and not be silenced…” (Mizmor Shir Chanukat HaBayit). If you take all honor away from someone, they either die or go crazy. This was exactly what those Nazi monsters tried, and in some cases succeeded, to do to our brothers and sisters in the Second World War era. And when someone goes crazy and imagines himself to be someone else, he doesn’t just think that he is the local bank manager. Rather, he imagines himself to be the most illustrious person he can think of, someone with the greatest honor. He imagines himself to be Napoleon, or herself to be the Queen of England.One of the reasons why the Second Beit Hamikdash was destroyed was the incident of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza: A certain man had a friend named Kamtza and an enemy called Bar Kamtza. He once made a party and said to his servant, “Go and bring Kamtza.” The man went and brought Bar Kamtza by mistake. When the man who gave the party found Bar Kamtza there, he said, “What are you doing here? Get out!” Said the other, “Since I am already here, let me stay and I will pay you for whatever I eat and drink.” Said the host, “Absolutely not.” “Then let me give you half the cost of the party.” The host refused. “Then let me pay for the whole party.” Still the host refused, and took him by the hand and threw him out.

Bar Kamtza was prepared to pay an enormous sum to save himself from humiliation. And if Bar Kamtza came to the party, it meant that he assumed that the host wanted to be his friend now — which could only have crushed him further.

No one can second-guess the Master of the World. No one can say this happened because of that. But when tragedies happen — and especially when they are close to home — each one of us must do more than a little soul searching.

This year, 45 holy Jews were crushed to death in Meron on Lag B’Omer. On Erev Shavuot, two more of our holy brethren were crushed to death and over 180 injured in Jerusalem.

As I write this, five people have died and 156 remain missing as a result of the collapse of an apartment building in Miami, Florida. The area is more than a third Jewish, with a large Orthodox population.

Stones can crush, and bodies can crush — but words can crush just as effectively.

It’s not just sticks and stones that break bones.