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Browse Zemanim: Rosh Hashanah: The Importance of Kind Words

Contributed by: R. Shaul Chamoula

In the Haphtarah of Kippour, Hashem rebukes the people for their insincerity on fast-days, and that ultimately, repentance will lead to redemption.

The Gemara in Masechet Baba Batra 9B brings a statement in the name of Ribbi Yisshaq, "whoever gives money to the poor is blessed with six blessings, as is stated in Isaiah chapter 58:7-12, (the Haphtarah of Kippour) if you give food to the poor and clothe them and bring them into your house for shelter, then your light will break forth as the morning, and your healing will quickly sprout; and your righteousness will go before you, and the Glory of Hashem will be your reward. When you call to Hashem, He will answer, and when you cry to Him, He will say, Here I am."

Ribbi Yisshaq continues and says that if you also appease the poor person in addition to your monetary help, then you will be blessed with eleven blessings. As the verse continues, "And Hashem will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And they shall build from you the ancient ruins, you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in."

The Tosafot conclude that the eleven blessings given to the appeaser are in addition to the six blessings that he receives for giving charity.

The question is asked, since there seems to be repetition in the verses, how can the Tosafot say that each blessing is a separate blessing? Maybe the Navi is just repeating it for emphasis?

To answer this question, there is another Gemara in Masechet Baba Messia 58B. The Gemara states that " harmful words, are more severe then - stealing. The Gemara brings down three reasons for this: First, when the Torah speaks about saying harmful words it says "you shall fear Hashem", however, when the Torah forbids someone to steal it does not tell him to fear Hashem. Secondly, stealing money is only damaging a person's property, whereas harmful words damage a person's body. Thirdly, you can return money that you stole, but you can't take back a harmful word.

Suppose you had two storekeepers on opposite sides of the street. One owner is very honest and careful to make sure he doesn't cheat you in any way. However, he is nasty at times, and he has no time to listen to the requests of the customers. The second owner, on the other hand, is very nice. He always greets you with a smile, and has plenty of time for his customers. However, you have to always count your change to make sure that he didn't cheat you, and you always have to check the scale to make sure that he didn't weigh his hand also. Which owner is considered more righteous in the eyes of the public? If you answered the first owner, you're probably right. However, the Gemara is teaching us, that in reality the second owner is more righteous since he doesn't hurt anyone's feeling. He is at least three times better since the Gemara gave three reasons. Stealing is a sign of a low character, true, but using harmful words is a sign of an even lower person.

With this we can answer our question above. Harmful words are worse than stealing money, and therefore the Tosafot concluded that using kind and helpful words will earn an additional eleven blessings over the six blessings one would receive for just giving charity.

Let's clarify an important point. If poor person comes to collect money, just speaking kind words to him without giving him any money, will not earn you eleven blessings. If you don't at least give him the money, then there is nothing to talk about. The minimum is to provide him sedaqah. Adding kind words is an additional blessing for all in
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