Imagine for a moment living in a world that has no words. It’s kind of hard to imagine, I know. But think about it. In a world with no words, you wouldn’t be able to talk or read. Words help us communicate, explain things, and relate to each other. In a world with no words, all of these important things would be severely reduced. Communication with other humans would be limited to body language and possibly sonar. Huh? I’m kidding, sonar would still be reserved for dolphins.
On the flip side, in a world with no words, we wouldn’t talk negatively or speak badly about others. In a world with no words, Lashon Harah wouldn’t exist. And if Lashon Harah didn’t exist, we would likely not have gone into galus, exile.
You see, Tisha Be’av wasn’t always a “bad” day. It wasn’t always a gloomy day. But on the 9th day of the month of Av, in the year 2449 – just one year after the Jewish people’s Exodus from Egypt – the 10 spies spoke Lashon Harah about the Land of Israel, and “The people cried that night.” This was the beginning of the “end.” This was the mark of the first Tisha Be’av, and this day became the day when the Holy Temples in Jerusalem would be destroyed, and a day the Jewish people would mourn for years to come, until today. “You cried for naught,” said G‑d. “By your lives, I will make this a night of crying for generations to come.”
In a world with no words, the 10 spies would have never spoken their evil report to the Jewish people. In a world with no words, we would have traveled to Eretz Yisroel right away, without having to wander in the desert for 40 years. In a world with no words…
Parshas Devarim is always read before Tisha Be’av. The Haftorah that we read is חזון ישעיהו, as it discusses the prophecy foretelling the destruction. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that the numerical value of "חזון ישעיהו בן אמוץ" is 661, the exact same as "לשון הרע". The dreaded day of Tisha Be’av began when people misused the power of words and spoke negatively about something so holy.
My friends, at the end of the day, we must face the facts, and that is, we live in a world that has words. Yes, words can be used to harm, hurt, destroy, and sin. But the potential for what’s on the other side of the spectrum is magnificent. Words can be used to help, create, build, and produce.
The Passuk in Hosea 14:3 states: קְח֤וּ עִמָּכֶם֙ דְּבָרִ֔ים וְשׁ֖וּבוּ אֶל־ה' – Take words with you and return to Hashem. On a simple level, we have the power to take our דברים, our words, and come closer to Hashem. On a deeper level, perhaps we are being told to take דברים – i.e., Parshas Devarim – with us, and return to Hashem. Parshas Devarim, which is always read right before Tisha Be’av – a day that began with the misuse of words – is a time for us to channel and refocus how it is we can use our words for holiness. In a world with words, let us use them to bring ourselves and others closer to Hashem.