6 Tishrei 5781 / Thursday, September 24, 2020 | Torah Reading: Ha'azinu
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Stolen Waters Taste Sweeter    

Stolen Waters Taste Sweeter

Modesty in speech is something that requires restraint. It is a person’s nature to be social, to encourage a positive atmosphere with the people around them…


Imagine you are watching a conversation take place. You are also wearing spiritual glasses which display Hashem’s view of the conversation.


You find yourself inside an office, observing a man and a woman in the break room. They are talking as they fill up their coffee cups. Surprisingly, you begin to see a green foul spiritual odor emit from the man’s mouth. He chats some more with the woman, and flashes her a bright smile. She returns the smile and gives a chuckle. The foul spiritual odor now escapes from her mouth as well.


The discussion continues for a short while, and you now notice that both people have an impure spiritual cloud surrounding their heads. The conversation comes to an end and the employees walk back to their desks.


With these spiritual glasses on, you are also able to hear the man’s thoughts. As he thinks, the spiritually impure cloud around him intensifies:


“Sara is a nice woman. Pretty smile. I wish my wife was as cheerful as her when I come home after a long day. Such a pretty smile Sara has. I bet she would never say what my wife told me last night, criticizing me like she did…” On and on his thoughts progress.


As the woman walks to her desk, you can hear her thoughts too: “Such a friendly man Aaron is. What a handsome smile he has. I wish I had married someone like that, instead of the distant husband I have that never says thank you after I serve him a gourmet meal.” On and on her thoughts go.


You take off your glasses and shake your head. It’s incredible how much marital discord can erupt from a brief conversation that never should have occurred.


Modesty of Speech is such an important topic because it carries with it enormous ramifications for our personal lives. The Torah highly discourages idle talk between men and women who are not married to each other.


Let’s go back to the office employees. You are now in the home of the woman at the end of the day. She is in the kitchen, and you can hear her thoughts as she prepares dinner. “Aaron is such a nice man…such a warm smile.” The woman’s husband walks into the room and she begrudgingly acknowledges him. “Watch this” she thinks to herself, “I’m now going to serve my husband this delicious meal and he won’t even talk to me as he answers business calls. Why can’t he give me a nice smile and pay attention to me. I bet Aaron pays attention to his wife…”


The Evil Inclination has infiltrated this situation, right? He is here and there, and everywhere! And how was he invited in? Through that short break-room conversation. The Evil Inclination can dress up any man or woman and make them look enticing.


King Solomon teaches us, “Stolen waters taste sweeter” (Mishlei 9:17). They taste sweeter because they are forbidden, not because they are better. Any person who is off limits to us looks more attractive due to the Evil Inclination’s influence.


Modesty in speech is something that requires restraint. It is a person’s nature to be social, to encourage a positive atmosphere with the people around them. However, the Torah places limits on who we are free to chat with.


For example, the Torah encourages greeting others with a friendly countenance and a bright smile. However, that only refers to men greeting men and women greeting women.


These limitations are meant to guard the sanctity of our marriages. Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, world-renowned rabbi and educator, deals with the unfortunate outcomes of “friendly” conversations between genders. They easily lead to adultery in one’s mind, and sometimes actual adultery. Rabbi Wallerstein says a person should run away from any conversation that is not work-related and necessary.


The more personal the topic, the more dangerous it is. Even simple, non-personal topics can lead to very personal topics. Rabbi Wallerstein teaches: don’t let the Evil Inclination tell you that because you are at work, you can talk with whomever you want.


A good mantra might be: “Only take part in unemotional, necessary, work-related conversation.”


Maintaining a pure and holy mouth takes restraint and persistence. There’s a time and a place for a reserved demeanor.


“According to the effort, so is the reward” (Avos 5:22). Hashem will certainly repay us for the efforts we take in modest speech. An Orthodox Rabbi is a great person to ask if one has specific questions.


May we all be blessed with the wisdom and perseverance needed to fulfill these laws.

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