The arrangements of the heart belong to a person, but from Hashem is the declaration of the tongue.
Although one can (and should) prepare his words before he speaks, he still needs Hashem’s help to utter the words properly. This is obvious to anyone with a speech impediment, but it is equally true for all people.
This is one of the countless ordinary activities that people take for granted, believing they have power over an action just because they normally get the expected result. People who prepare their words do tend to speak better, and I’m sure there are studies that prove it. But even the best orators have occasional gaffes; they stumble on their words, they say the wrong thing, their mind goes blank, or it just doesn’t come out right.
These should serve as humbling reminders that nothing is automatic, not even the simplest action that we prepared in advance. Without God’s help every single time we want to say something, we will be bumbling fools.
Indeed, every time we are about to begin the shemoneh esrei, our primary prayer, we preface it with King David’s prayer in Tehillim 51:17: ה’ שפתי תפתח ופי יגיד תהלתך. Hashem, open my lips, and my mouth will tell Your praises. We have to say a prayer before we pray just to be able to recite the prayers!
These days it is all about control. Governments are trying to control their populations, under the guise of controlling the spread of the covid strain du jour. Idolatrous priests in white coats insist their pharmaceutical products are essential for our health, and should be forced upon us. Their marketing department – the media – controls the narrative. Tech companies control the flow of information. Riot police control the crowds. Education czars control the children. They even want to control the climate.
But don’t worry, they reassure us after each dose of their fear-mongering. Everything is under control.
That’s the real lesson of this proverb. Everything is indeed under control – God’s control. These puny tyrants who wish to control everything cannot even control their own bowel movements, or their tempers, or their ability to fall asleep, or the blood vessels carrying oxygen throughout their bodies. Prepare as they might, they cannot even control the words that leave their mouths. God grants them the ability to speak, so long as it suits His will. And when it suits His will, He pulls a Bil’am on them.
Realizing how powerless we truly are is the most empowering step we can take. This leads us off the path of idolatry, ascribing power to others or ourselves, and toward God as the only source of power. Only those who recognize God’s control can live with any degree of confidence and tranquility. The more we fear God, the less we fear anything else, for we recognize that everything comes from God.
So, by all means, prepare before you speak. Then say a prayer that it should come out right.
Whatever you do, don’t let godless maniacs control your existence.
Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the author of hundreds of articles and seven books on a wide range of subjects. He is also the director and producer of a documentary, Single Jewish Male, and a series of short films. His work can be found at chananyaweissman.com and rumble.com/c/c-782463. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.