Dear Temple Israel of Catskill Family,
We are richly blessed to be a growing congregation, and it is wonderful to be sharing so much with so many of you at our services and celebrations. Today, I want to share with you, one of my favorite Chassidic tales. It is a story which helps remind me of the sacredness of words and the care with which our tradition teaches us to guard them.
In a small village somewhere far away, there lived a man named Heshi who loved to tell stories about other people. Whatever he heard about his fellow neighbors, he passed along to anyone who would listen. Many enjoyed hearing and repeating his stories, often adding their own embellishments. One day, one of these stories concerning a local shop owner was told to a man named Shlomo. The man who told Shlomo the story had no idea he was speaking to the man whom the story was about. Shlomo became upset because the events had been distorted, and he began to worry about his reputation which he had spent his life building. Not knowing where to turn, he went to see the local rabbi. The rabbi knew everyone in their village, and had an idea where the rumor might have begun. He walked over to the home of Heshi, and told him about what happened to Shlomo. Upon hearing how distraught Shlomo was, Heshi readily admitted to having told the story and felt very sorry for what he had done. Heshi hadn’t meant to tell false stories about a neighbor, he just enjoyed talking and was not accustomed to thinking deeply about what he said. Heshi implored the rabbi to tell him what he could do in order to repair the damage he had caused.
The rabbi instructed Heshi to take a feather pillow, cut it open and release the feathers into the wind. Heshi dashed into his house, taking the pillow from his bed and did just as the rabbi asked. He watched as the feathers landed on the rabbi’s shoes, and on his own, on plants and branches of trees, he watched as feathers flew to roof tops and down the street, he watched them go in every direction. A little perplexed, he then turned to the rabbi and asked him what he was to do now. The rabbi replied that he should go and collect all of the feathers and put them back into the pillow. When the man exclaimed that this was surely not possible, the rabbi then told him the following.
“Words, like feathers, once we release them, have a life all their own. We don’t know where they will land, and we certainly cannot take them back. So, we must be mindful of what we say and the power that words have and of the responsibility we all carry to use them well.”
I pray that our community continues to grow and that we find every opportunity to bless each other with kind words whenever we see one another. “…May our hearts meditate understanding, our mouths speak wisdom and our tongues compose song … ”Talmud (Brakhot 17A).