The Power of a Good Word

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20 Sep 2007

Holy and Secular – One of the harshest punishments that can be meted out to a sports team is to force it to play far away from its home field. This means that the team must play without the support of fans watching the game. Not only does the team lose financially, its chance of winning the game is severely hampered. Without encouragement, the ability of the team to win a game is seriously impaired.

Even the most talented players, earning millions of dollars, are influenced by the spectators. Even the most professional players, who spend all their time in practice, from dawn to dusk, need encouragement. The best players will perform best in the presence of a group of enthusiastic supporters.

Encouragement and support are not trivial matters. Every person functions better when he is given encouragement. Everybody is influenced by hearing a good word of encouragement, no matter how brief. The other side of the coin is also true: Everybody is discouraged by negative criticism. Even a cold and indifferent person gains strength when he is given support and becomes weaker when he is criticized. This is a concrete fact. And that is why every sports team fights as hard as it can for its right to play on its home ground, with the resulting support and encouragement.

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He rises very early in order to serve you. He receives his small and degrading salary from a security company. But you can give him an increase in salary. Give him a smile, thank him for guarding over you and protecting you. He will be happy, and you will have begun your day with a great mitzva.

* * * * * *

She has been standing there for hours. There she is, one checkout clerk out of twenty clerks in a huge supermarket. Perhaps she will receive her minimum wage at the end of the month (if she is not fired before that) but you can give to her a personal addition to her salary. Smile, thank her, and wish her a nice day. By doing this, you will have improved her mood and you have done a great mitzva – without costing you a thing.

* * * * * *

He is on his way to the guard post. His commander mocked him an hour ago in front of his entire unit. He may not see his home for the next week (unless he is punished for some reason, and then he may be kept away from home for even longer). But you can help lift his spirits. Give him a pat on the back, tell him not to be upset by the commander. Tell him that everybody loves him. The guard duty will not be any less upsetting, but his mood will be better.

* * * * * *

He is now returning to his seat in the synagogue. He has just finished a conversation in somewhat raised tones with one of the congregants who was unhappy about the seat he was assigned. On the way to his seat, he reminds one of the congregants that he was asked to open the holy ark. And then somebody points out to him that in past years things were done differently. He will not receive a salary at the end of the month, or even at the end of the year. A gabai – in charge of the prayers in the synagogue – does not receive a salary. But you can thank him for his efforts in organizing the services. This will give him strength – even if he does not admit it.

* * * * * *

Many envelopes land in our mail boxes every day asking for support for emergency funds. Many of these funds help very needy people and can even save lives. But there are also other types of campaigns which pass us by every single day. These do not require large sums of money, all they require is a good word or two, nothing more. Sometimes, these campaigns can even help save a life.

Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute ( Translated from the Hebrew by Moshe Goldberg. To subscribe to receive the complete version of Shabbat BeShabbato please write to

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.