by Rabbi Aharon Leibovitz, rabbi of the Kol Rina congregation in Jerusalem
In the story of the creation of man, it says "and [He] breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" – translated by Onkelos, ( the translator of the Bible into Arameic), as "the spirit of discourse", the spirit of speech.
The ability and the desire to communicate in words is what differentiates human beings from other creatures. Our desire for social contact and couplehood is closely connected to our nature as communicative creatures.
Which of us has not stood alone looking at a breathtaking sunset, a comet or some other sight, and felt enormously frustrated by the need to share the experience with someone else? It is therefore important to remember the power, the danger and the limitations of words when we enter into a relationship.
The Holy One created the universe with words, and we can build our world or destroy it, heaven forbid, with words.
The ability to describe my inner world in words to my partner in life, and to listen in a genuine and non-judgmental way to his or her world is the basis for creating a shared world. By asking questions, I can clarify whether I have understood correctly, and can understand better. A good word strengthens my partner, and thus the two of us. A bad word, heaven forbid, can only do the reverse. If I am hurt or angry, the ability to open up my world to my partner, to share without attacking, is priceless. This ability requires effort and practice, and it can be learned. We are not talking pop psychology here, but about the essential fabric on which human nature and every inter-personal connection is based.
There are also places where words are not enough, places which are beyond words. "Praise waiteth for Thee" – as we get closer to the holy, we touch on places without words. This is the place where poetry and melody surpass prose and dialogue. Sometimes merely being together, without saying a word, can express a higher level of closeness.
The foundation for these moments of spiritual elevation is formed by the quality of communication at other times. The silence that has no words behind it can often indicate alienation and lack of connection. On the other hand, a couple relationship through which the "spirit of discourse" blows can be called a marriage, because it can touch the highest worlds in which the angels sing what simple words cannot express.