The Vort: Noach – Entering the Word

Here’s a thought experiment – Try and remember every single word you communicated to the outside world today. Include all the conversations, emails, phone calls, texts. Ok, got it? No? Half? Probably not. I sometimes feel like words and speech just slip through me. And once those words are out there, I can’t ever get them back. It’s scary.

The Chofetz Chaim really wants you to speak nicely
The Chofetz Chaim really, really wants you to not speak lashon hara.
This week we read Parashat Noach, which is about the power and potential of speech. Let’s start from the beginning and see how. Noah is instructed to build a teiva. Teiva has several meanings – in addition to the common translation, ark, teiva also means “word.” Given this translation, the story of Noah is about God instructing Noah how to build speech, words.
Need more proof? God gives Noah very specific physical dimensions for the teiva. It is to be:
300 amot (arm lengths) long
50 amot deep
30 amot wide
What’s with these specific details? Using gematria, a textual tool that uses numerical equivalents of letters to find meaning in the Torah, we can translate those measurements into Hebrew letters as follows –
30 = the letter lamed
300 = the letter shin
50 = the letter nun
Those letters, lamed, shin, nun, spell the Hebrew word “lashon.” Lashon means means language. Cool, no?
Let’s take it a step further. We can understand these measurements as specific instructions for our own speech, our own words. The teiva had to be:
300 amot (arm lengths) long. Consider the length of your words – what is their power and who will they reach? How long will they last?
50 amot deep – Consider the depth of your words – are the words we say true and real, and are we using words to deepen and strengthen our relationships?
30 amot wide – Consider the width of your words. How are those around us hearing them? What effects will they have on others?
Words, often tossed around so carelessly, should be measured. The teiva took 120 years to build. After all that preparation, God finally instructs Noah: “enter the teiva – enter the word.” May we prepare our own teivot, our words, with care and wisdom, and may we use all the dimensions of our speech to build more perfect selves, relationships, and societies. Shabbat shalom.

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