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Cursed or Blessed? The Power of Words

Written by שי טחן, 6/3/2024


Cursed or Blessed? The Power of Words

Rabbi Shay Tahan



While praying, one may openly curse those evil-doers who involve themselves in hurting and terrorizing the Jewish nation. However, concerning cursing a fellow Jew, there is a Torah prohibition(ויקרא יט, יד) : "Do not curse a deaf person." Although the pasuk speaks of a deaf person, it means to teach about anyone.

Chazal ask, "Why does the pasuk speaks about a 'deaf' person?" and answer that the torah forbids cursing even if a person cannot hear and is not distressed by this curse, still whoever curses him is punished for his curse (רמב״ם סנהדרין פרק כו, ה״א). This also means that if one curses someone behind their back, and the person does not know about it, it is still considered a curse.

Still we should not confuse this with those whom one is permitted to curse.

There are chapters in Tehilim where King David curses his enemies, such as (תהילים קט):

"May the wicked one be assigned over him, and a prosecutor stands at his right hand. When he is judged, let him go out guilty, and may his prayer be considered as sin. May his days be few; let another take his position. Let his children be orphans and his wife a widow. Let his children wander and beg, seeking food far from their demolished homes. May the creditor seize all he owns, and strangers plunder his efforts. Let no one extend kindness to him, nor have compassion on his fatherless children. May his posterity be cut off; may their name be blotted out in the next generation. Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before Hashem, and the sin of his mother not be blotted out. Let them be continually before Hashem, so He may cut off the memory of them from the earth. Because he did not remember to show kindness, but persecuted the poor and needy, and sought to kill the brokenhearted. He loved cursing, so it came to him; he did not delight in blessing, so it was far from him”.

Similar sentiments are found in Tehilim לה, נח, סט and many others.

If one has the intention of reciting these chapters against another, they violate the prohibition of cursing just as the one who curses an Israelite is punished.

One may argue that when these verses are recited without adding any extra words, it might be permitted to simply have the person one dislikes in mind and thought,  We can still learn from the Rema (או״ח סימן נג ס״ק יט) that someone who harbors animosity toward another should not lead the prayer as a chazan who reads from the Torah. The Mishnah Berurah (ס״ק נח) explains that the concern is that the chazan may intend the admonition against someone in the congregation, posing a danger. Therefore, the Rema ruled that even if they were called up for an aliyah, they should not ascend. This ruling also applies to the gabbai, who should not call up such a person for the reading to avoid potential danger.

Sefer Chassidim (סימן תשסו) tells us of a man who was accustomed to going up for rebukes during the Torah reading of parashat Ki Tavo every year. Once, the Chazan got angry at him and said, 'For your honor, I intend the reading.' That person, upon hearing this, said, 'Since you intend to honor me with this rebuke, do not call me up for it.' That same Shabbat, his daughter fell ill and died. We see that although he only read the words of the Torah without adding anything, his thoughts alone had devastating effects.

Rav Chaim Palacci(שו״ת חקקי לב סימן נ’)  writes that one may not intend reading such psukim on people he doesn't like, and he learns this from the fact that the Torah commands us to help unload the donkey of a person he doesn't like; even more so, he should not curse him.

Finally, we can conclude that although one may not curse another person even if he dislikes him or hates him, and even if he only has him in mind while reading curses in the Torah or Tehilim, it is still permitted to do so for the evildoers' enemies.



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