From the opening of Kol Nidre on the eve of Yom Kippur to the final prayers in the last hour of the fast, a central theme is the power and importance of words.
Kol Nidre itself is a legal annulment of the vows we over the past year. Although it refers only to vows made to God, the message is powerful:
The promises we make matter. How well do you keep your word? Do you follow your own proclamations and rules, or only when it’s convenient for you?
Within the confessional of specific sins we recite over the holiday, a large number refer to speech: speaking about people, false statements in business, misleading people.
Words are important.
God created the world with words, and words have the power to create new worlds. Think of the power of a good story, the way it transports you to another world.
Words also have the power to destroy worlds. Promises made and not kept, rules created or abandoned as suits the person or people making them, false statements, speaking about others behind their backs — all of these destroy the fabric of trust on which our society is built.
When we don’t stand behind our words, people can’t trust us. When we can’t trust others to stand behind their words, we lose trust in them. We lose trust in the processes that are vital to the functioning of our society.
Words can heal or words can hurt.
Words are the currency of gratitude, prayer, and praise. They are also vehicles for insult, defamation, and criticism.
Whether you publish them publicly or simply say them to the people in your life, your words become your legacy. They infiltrate the consciousness of those who hear them. We repeat the things we hear. We quote others.
Your words are important.
Even the words you never speak aloud have power. Your self-talk shapes your beliefs and actions. Studies show different parts of the brain are activated depending on the words you are thinking.
What if every word that you uttered, even your self-talk, was a prayer.
How would that change your speech, your self-talk, your writing, and the words you choose?