From the Rav’s Desk: Talking too much: Is it possible to run out of words?

  1. Question: [Sunday, 22nd Teves, 5783]

I Baruch Hashem was blessed with Tishe Kavim of Dibbur [i.e. I talk a lot] and have been often told that Hashem gives us a limited amount of words to speak so I should save some up for my later years. Is there any truth to this statement? Is there a source?


Indeed, there is a source for such a concept in the Midrash, and Sichas of the Rebbe Rayatz. Its interpretation however is unclear.


Explanation: I also grew up hearing this concept, and as a young student in yeshiva, I had dismissed it as folklore, thinking that it has no source. However, over a decade ago I read in the talks of the Rebbe Rayatz this exact statement, that a person should avoid talking too much or unnecessarily, being that he has an exact number of words in his lifetime. In his exact words “Every soul which comes down to this world is given letters of speech to the exact amount necessary for his soul to speak during his lifetime in this world. This amount given is in letters without words, however the words themselves which are said with these letters are within his freedom of choice to decide. A person can choose what to speak, which words to say from the number of letters that have been given to his soul.”  There are also other sources which speak of this concept that Hashem grants an individual an exact number of words of speech. The Midrash on Parshas Vaeira states that at the time that man is created, God decrees upon him how many talks he will speak and how many words he will say. The Arizal states, as later recorded in the Chida, that every word which one says is an exhausts part of his soul, and therefore we are commanded not to speak unnecessary words, being that it causes lost to our soul. This is with exception to words of Torah, which may be spoken of without limit, and on the contrary, add life force to the soul. It is for this reason that some Chassidic masters write that when one speaks unnecessary matters [i.e. Devarim Beteilim] he transgresses the do not murder prohibition, as he is taking part of his own soul. This does not necessarily contradict the words of the Alter Rebbe in Tanya in Chapter 20 that a person is able to speak endlessly, as this refers to the soul itself and not necessarily to the soul as it’s invested in the body.

Sources: See Likkutei Dibburim [Hebrew] p. 95 LIkkut 3:17; Midrash Hagadol on Vaeira 7:9 p. 113; Likkutei Torah of Arizal Parshas Eikev; Chida in Midbar Kdeimos Mareches Daled Chaf Alef; Ahavas David Derush Gimel; Derech Pikudecha L.S. Chelek Hadibbur 3; Arvei Nachal [of the Baal Levushei Haserud] Parshas Vayakehl in Length; Tanya Chapter 20; Likkutei Pirushei Tanya of Rav Shmuel Gronam; Orchos Yosher p. 89 of Rav Chaim Kanievsly

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