Thursday, January 29, 2009

Say What?

My arrival and first days in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) have been nice. My location is incredible, as I am in the center of the city, and really not far from anything of interest. The first day here, I took a trip to the Yam HaMelach (Dead Sea) with a few other people, and it was a nice, relaxing way to start my time here. The yeshiva is relaxing, even though the learning is fairly constant. The people are diverse, and everyone is very nice and talkative. It will take me a little while to get used to the rosh yeshiva (dean of the institution) though. He’s fairly charismatic, and with a proper British accent, is very intimidating. He has an aura about him, and coupled with the rosh yeshiva-niks who follow him around, has a real command in the yeshiva. As the rosh yeshiva is British, so are many of the students. In my apartment, there are two Americans, two people from England, one person from Switzerland, and one from Australia. The yeshiva itself is equally as diverse, with Americans maybe making up half of the students, and the rest being largely from England or Australia.

Because the yeshiva is so diverse, a lot of attention is given to what we say, how we speak, and how we understand each other. The Americans often have to pause to think about what the British students mean, and the British students often have the same issue with the Americans. With the international slang flying around at every turn, some of us wait with great anticipation for the day when a someone British asks for fifty quid (a term for money), and instead receives fifty squid. The same is true in regard to interacting with most of the Israelis here. While many people in Israel are at least marginally fluent in English, they often do not understand what Americans are saying. This can lead to all sorts of disasters in taxi rides, shopping, and eating. I often wonder if butchering my English and faking a strong Israeli accent would bring me any closer to getting what I need.

The caution with which we need to choose our words in the yeshiva and Israel brings up an integral value in Judaism. Watching our speech, or “Shmiras HaLoshon”, is an important concept in Judaism. We are taught that when we do something negative, we create a malach (“angel”, or spiritual force) that has the ability to testify to our misdeeds. Because each quality can only create the same quality in the malach created, those created by actions cannot testify and say why they were created. However, when one speaks loshon hora (gossip), since the misdeed itself is verbal, the malach created has the ability to be verbal. Therefore, not only can it say why it was created, but it can also point out why each of the other malochim were created as well. This means we need to be extra careful about what we say, how we say it, and what extra lasting impact our words have on the world.


  1. Hey BeeZee!!,,

    Nice post!

    If something as simple and effortless as speaking nice words to others creates a positive spiritual force, imagine the magnitude of the spiritual force created when one goes out of his way, or inconveniences oneself, to be nice to others….

  2. Very nice, indeed. From your computers to the eyes and ears of the world. Enjoy the holy city.

  3. Nice indeed. I thank you for this message and I know you will choice your words wisely.You listen well and that skill will help you learn and grow in what you say and how you say the words you will need. Take care and G-D Speed. Love Mom