Words are important. Words are so important that, in our Jewish tradition, if a word of Torah is mispronounced during worship services, it must be repeated correctly. Words can have multiple meanings. Shalom is a prime example. Hello, goodbye, wholeness, are just a few of the meanings associated with the three root letters: Shin, Lamed and Mem. Words are also the means that we have for communication. They are also the most basic tool we have for creating obfuscation, misleading, and massaging messages. Two seemingly disconnected situations reinforced the power of words to me.
I recently returned from a two-week journey in four Baltic countries: Finland, Russia, Estonia and Latvia. I travelled with my wife’s choir, the Ottawa Choir Society, to Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinin and Riga. While she and 75 other beautiful voices offered concerts in historic churches and concert venues, I served as a roadie/schlepper. While many in the choir enjoyed the 14-centuries-old towns of Riga and Tallinn, and the czarist beauty of St. Petersburg, a few of us explored the rich Jewish history and the current situation of Jews in these countries. It was not a journey for the faint of heart. [Read more…]