Did you hear what Mordechai did?

The Purim story reminds us to use our words carefully. Think Purim is only about pastry, fun, alcohol, and noise? Read on. 

In chapter 3, Haman doesn’t notice that Mordechai won’t bow and scrape—until the courtiers tell him. Only then does Haman see, and he is filled with rage. This teaches the enormous destructive potential of rechilut (tale-bearing), a variety of lashon hara (evil speech). 

Or perhaps Haman does notice, but ignores it—until the courtiers speak. Their tale-bearing escalates it to a public insult, making it about Haman’s honor and power to rule. 

Either way, their single act of evil speech goads Haman to genocide. Words have consequences. Remember that as you drink—and when you don’t. And when you post. Or boast. Or tweet. 

Yet some situations demand that we speak up. The Chafetz Chayim details specific situations in which speech that would otherwise be prohibited becomes permitted, and sometimes even obligatory. 

Megillat Esther dramatizes one such category—saving lives requires us to speak. Chapter 2 relates how Mordechai spoke up to save a life when palace guards plotted to assassinate the king. At the climactic moment of chapter 7, Esther speaks up to save her people. 

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21) 

Photo by Romain V on Unsplash

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