Human Design: Built for a Torah Lifestyle

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Men speak lies to one another; their speech is smooth; they talk with two parts of their heart (Psalms 12:3)

May God cut off all smooth speakers… (Psalms 12:4).

In 12:3 three King David identifies 3 flaws: 1) men lie, 2) their speech is smooth and cunning, and 3) they feel one way in their heart but speak another way with their mouths; they lie based on their emotional make up, their divisive hearts. In 12:4, King David says God should cut off of people, but only due to 1 of these 3 flaws. What is significant about smooth speech that it alone demands they should be killed? 

The answer is that the first flaw of lying is a single, one-time act, not reflecting a person’s total assessment. And a divided heart is only a description of the emotional design, the capacity to be divisive, itself not warranting destruction of the person. But smooth speech describes a corrupted “state”: the person deteriorated to a level so corrupt. It is this state that demands his death. It is his regressive level that yields no salvation and requires Gods justice. It’s not the single act of lying that warrants one’s death, but his regression to a despicable corrupt status that earns his death.  Similarly, God says to Abraham, “And your seed shall return here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Gen. 15:16). Here, God tells Abraham about his children’s return to Israel: it is contingent on the Amorites’ regression to a level of sin warranting annihilation. Thus, we see another expression of this principle that when man sinks to a certain status of corruption, this warrants his death.

Talmud Archin 15b states as follows:

Rabbi Yochanan says in the name of Rabbi Yosei ben Zimra, “What is the meaning of that which is written: ‘What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done for you, you deceitful tongue?’ (Psalms 120:3)  [This means] the Holy One, Blessed be He said to the tongue: “All the other limbs of a person are upright, but you are lying horizontally [at rest]. All the other limbs of a person are external, but you are internal [restricted]. And moreover, I have surrounded you with two walls [to stop your evil speech], one of bone [teeth] and one of flesh [lips]. What more shall be given to you and what more shall be done for you, to prevent you from speaking in a deceitful manner, you tongue?”

We derive an amazing lesson from here. Unlike animal life, the human body is not designed solely for procreation and self preservation. Here, the Talmud tells us that God designed man to be most in line with Torah principles, avoiding evil speech. He created the tongue in a reclined state to indicate that it should not be used as much as other limbs that are vertical. And we see this is so because man cannot function a moment without being able to walk and use his arms and stand upright. These crucial limbs are all designed in a vertical “active” state because of their essential movements at all times. But speech is not an absolute necessity. And even more so, philosophers have taught that one’s speech should be greatly limited. This is because man uses his speech to satisfy his instinctual drives. 

This Talmudic portion also states that God placed the tongue internally, whereas all other limbs are external, teaching the same lesson: God created the tongue in a design indicating it must be contained. And another beautiful idea here is that God created two walls around the tongue: teeth and lips. This teaches a marvelous idea: speech requires the coordination of 3 body parts, the tongue, the teeth, and lips. This means that there is not as much ease in speech which requires coordination of 3 body parts, while all other activities require only 1 limb, such as the hand and the foot. Thus, God made it more difficult for man to speak than to perform other activities, and this is to restrict evil speech. God’s design of the human being is in line with following Torah principles. The rabbis say, “God looked at the Torah and created the world.” The meaning is the Torah is the blueprint for creation and for man.

Maimonides says evil speech corresponds to the 3 deadly sins of murder, adultery, and idolatry (Hilchos Dayos 7:3). These are sins for which one must sacrifice his life instead of transgressing. This being the case, why is there no principle that one should die instead of speaking evil? 

This is because evil speech does not embody the full expression of a corrupt personality. Idolatry is a full expression of denying reality, adultery is a full expression of caving into the most basic lust, and murder is the full expression of aggression. But evil speech partakes of only a sublimated form, not the full emotional gratification. Through evil speech one recreates a new reality in his mind, he gives into instinctual drives, and he expresses aggression. But in none of these 3 speech motivations is there a complete gratification and therefore not a complete corruption. Therefore one does not need to sacrifice his life if forced to speak evil. Speech is not a completely unbridled expression.

Rabbi Yochanan says in the name of Rabbi Yosei ben Zimra: “Anyone who speaks malicious speech is considered as though he denied the fundamental belief in God. As it is stated: “Who have said: We will make our tongue mighty; our lips are with us: Who will lord over us?!” (Psalms 12:5).

Here we find an opposite sentiment, that evil speech is a denial of God, whereas the 3 deadly sins are not. This is because with speech, King David says in Psalms that one's intent is to remove any master, “Who will Lord over us?!” One's egomania expressed through full control of his speech rejects God. But adultery is not about rebelling against one's master, and neither is murder. And even in idolatry, one is not denying God's existence but he seeks to serve God through sub-deities or created forms. This is stated clearly in Jeremiah 10:7: “Who would not fear you King of nations?”