The Word – Charlie Hebdo of the Soul…writes Rabbi Laibl Wolf

January 18, 2015 by Rabbi Laibl Wolf
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What’s in a word? A picture is worth a thousand words. Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never harm me. And G-d said: let there be light. In the beginning was the Word. The awesome power of words – so amply demonstrated in the Paris terrorist murders. But it’s not the word, stupid – it’s the soul.

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

Islamic extremists are not spiritual people. Their ‘religion’ arises from personal and social maladjustment, resulting in perverse glorification of death to ‘infidels, Christians and Jews’. Charlie Hebdo is not a spiritual publication. It pokes fun at others in the simplistic belief (I hope) that doing so will create positive change. In truth, it’s just that – creative fun, but with the attendant dangers flowing from ridiculing and belittling – and running the risk of provoking maladjusted Islamist extremists to murder. Bad call!

So what, indeed, is in a word? Words are the uniquely human mode of entering into states of spiritual touch – soul to soul. The soul, described in Kabbala as the seat of consciousness, is soft-wired to reach out, to touch the world – through knowing, through feeling, through experiencing – of which the word is its most malleable expression. The soul seeks to unify separation, bridge the distance – conceptually and meaningfully, what Kabbala describes as the process of Bina. The word is Bina’s primary tool to spiritually touch the other and draw meaningfully near and close. Most profoundly (and truly)- expressed as love. Most hurtfully (and perversely) – expressed as pain.

Words fuel behaviour. They are the most potent instigator of disruption and estrangement, as well as the instant glue for love and harmony – War and Peace. Words are, however, less than perfect expressors of personality. Words attempt to translate the vagaries of desires, feelings, and inclinations into concreteness of sound – moulding the word-sounds into a mirror of our truth. But words never fully succeed in this endeavour. Words can only be cartoons of the soul, unable to fully express the spirit in a physical world. So we spend a lifetime attempting to master the art of speech, striving to become better sculptors of the raw materials of our soulful psyche. Success brings expressions of love into the world and society. Failure brings death and destruction as is patently obvious.

I don’t think Charlie Hebdo understands this. I know that Islamist terrorists certainly have no sense of this. But you and I do. Therefore choose to become conscious and masterful word-artists. Know that a word once uttered can never be taken back and leaves in its wake healthy or poisonous residue for evermore.

Words are building blocks for the cartoon of the soul, just like humans are a caricature of G-d. Unlike Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons however, the human cartoon has been gifted with the power of free choice in choosing its form and spoken word.

So think again. Will you selfishly lampoon life as a ‘loony toon’, using words maliciously and selfishly, or will you ‘toon-in’ to life’s profound rhythms and nurture a world in sore need of healing

 Rabbi Laibl Wolf, is the Dean of Spiritgrow – The Josef Kryss Center, Australia


One Response to “The Word – Charlie Hebdo of the Soul…writes Rabbi Laibl Wolf”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    Although words are abstract, they can express in concrete form spirituality and feelings to a high degree if chosen with skill and creativity. And they can do so in such a way that we move closer to the soul and/or the heart. Poetry in particular can achieve this. At this level of distinction, words are far more than mere cartoons of the soul. See ‘Shir Hashirim’ (‘Song of Songs’), the poems of Judah Ha-Levi, Dante, Rilke, Osip Mandelshtam, Tchernichovsky, Bialik, Leah Goldberg, Amir Gilboa, Akhmatova, Yevtushenko, Neruda, Yeats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Donne …
    one could go on and on. Great poetic works are created from the soul, which is why we, as readers or listeners, feel a link to the soul, access to it. Cartoons can never do that.

    I thought we, as humans, were images of G-d, made in G-d’s image – to be a caricature of G-d would imply a more grotesque, comic representation. I agree we have to be careful with words. They are of the utmost importance.

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