Speech is powerful. That’s why God used speech as the metaphor for the creation of the universe. He didn’t really speak; He has no lips, teeth, palette, tongue, or throat. It’s just a metaphor. It’s an indication of how He created the universe. Just as speech reveals the thoughts a person has, so too, there was a “plan” for creation before it came into existence. In the month of Tishrei the plan was formulated; in the month of Nisan the universe became a reality. Speech reveals.
An indication of the power of speech is articulated by our sages when they say that Torah study is the greatest mitzvah you can do. It gets you closer to God than any other mitzvah. Gossip is the greatest transgression a person can do. It distances a person from God more than any other transgression. The link between the most important positive act and the most damaging sin is the power of speech. Rabbi Israel Meyer Kagan once explained that since speaking is less tied to the physical realm than other acts, it has more of a spiritual impact. We don’t always see its power, but the mystical understanding is that talk can impact us as well as world events, positively or negatively, more than any other act. Speech is powerful.
An oddity of our faculty of speech is something that the philosopher Wittgenstein mentioned, which is the difficulty in truly articulating our thoughts in the form of words. It’s possible and even probable that our words do not clearly express our thoughts, because they are limited by the language we use, and limited further by our command of that language. Not only that, but the listener is further limited by their command of the language and even their personal relationship with the words of the speaker. So no one really understands the thoughts of another.
However, we believe in God, and that He influences every molecule of existence. Therefore we trust that communication is possible, that it is possible to understand one another. And if Wittgentstein’s idea is correct, then speech and communication are one of the hidden miracles we live with on a daily basis and take for granted. Speech reveals, and the fact that it reveals is evidence of an Infinite Being.
But one mystical secret that we do see in the world is that speech is the pinnacle of Man. Our ability to articulate ideas is something that no animal which exists can do. Animals have emotions and intelligence, but they can’t articulate thoughts. This biological fact is not the real difference, though, between man and animals. It merely is a physical expression of the spiritual difference between these two species. When we speak we reveal that we have a soul. A famous Aramaic translation of the Torah calls man in Genesis 2:7 not a “living soul” as the text literally says, but a “speaking soul.” Speech reveals the soul.
The month of Nisan is kabbalistically connected to the power of speech. The influence of the month is the ability to elevate ourselves through the faculty of speech. Passover night is the fullest expression of the power of the month. The mitzvah of the night is to speak about the going out of Egypt, to articulate our relationship with God, and His involvement with our world. Speak as much as you can for as long as you can, all night long. Speak about Egypt. Speak about the Jews. Speak about God.
May we merit to see the true essence of things be revealed, soon, in our lifetime.