"And Bilaam the son of Be’or they slew with the sword.” (Bamidbar 31:8)

Rashi explains that Bilaam sought to attack Bnei Yisrael with their own weapon — speech. Bnei Yisrael are protected via prayer so Bilaam tried to curse them with his mouth. Therefore when they killed Bilaam they did it via his own personal weapon — the sword. As it says in Bereishis (27:40): “By your sword you shall live.” (Chofetz Chaim al HaTorah) 

In ninth grade I took sewing classes. It didn’t make me a seamstress but I learned enough to mend and alter clothing. This skill usually comes in handy before Yom Tov when I have to fix all the clothing I’ve bought for the kids.

I’ve never invested in a sophisticated machine since my proficiency doesn’t warrant that kind of outlay. I get by with my simple Singer that can sew straight seams and the occasional zigzag.

My Singer and I have gotten on well enough throughout the years. I don’t demand too much of it and it’ll produce the little I need.

Until last Pesach. A few days before bedikas chometz I finally sat down to do alterations. But it seemed Singer had song his swan song. It squeaked stammered stalled and finally spewed a tangle of threads and knots. In defeat I threw my hands up in despair. Now what?

An artisan’s tools are essential for producing his product. Even the wisest and most industrial artisan cannot accomplish his job without his tools. So too a Jew cannot accomplish anything without his essential tool of speech. (ibid.) 

Admitting defeat I picked up my mending and trudged upstairs to my neighbor who’s a professional seamstress. When she came to the door she took one look at the pile of clothing in my hands and set me straight.

“I’m not accepting any more work” she said. “It’s a week before Pesach. Personally I don’t think there are any seamstresses who are still accepting more work.”

“But what’ll I do?” I almost wailed.

“You know what?” Inspiration hit suddenly. “Maybe I can just borrow your machine for a few hours and I’ll do it myself!”

She raised one eyebrow and quickly shot down my epiphany. “Lend you my machine?” Her voice was incredulous. “My machine is extremely sophisticated and expensive. I need it for my parnassah. I can’t just lend it out to someone who doesn’t know how to use it!” She was apologetic but firm. I know when I’m beaten.

I shuffled back home sat down on my couch and began to utilize the age-old craft of my grandmother. I threaded a needle and inch by agonizing inch I spent hours sewing crooked stitches by hand.

Hashem granted us the power of speech as a gift so we can create and produce both in heaven and on earth. Yeshayahu Hanavi says (51:16): “And I have put my words in your mouth that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth.” When man speaks with holy words holy malachim are created before Hashem in heaven. (ibid.) 

Our mouth is our professional machine. No one in the world has one like it. The churches can fill up with festively dressed Christians on Sundays the shrines and mosques can fill up as well. Even our building’s front lawn can fill up with the Arab workers doing renovations for our neighbor the workers bowing and kneeling on a piece of cardboard. Yet none of them have the original “machine.” They’re all using poor imitations.

Therefore man must take great care that he doesn’t ruin his artisan’s tools by forbidden speech lashon hara and rechilus. Rather he must use them to speak words of Torah prayer and holiness. (ibid.) 

I have one unparalleled professional tool in my house. It’s responsible for my health livelihood and my family’s wellbeing. It’s the only thing that can save me when faced with a major crisis or even a small meltdown. At that point I take my weapon of speech and send my words to Hashem.

Why would I lend such a powerful tool to the yetzer hara? Why would I risk having it ruined by foolish or forbidden words? This “machine” is too precious to lend out. I have to keep it in top form so I can always stay connected to my Father.