The Uncontainable Wind: A Parable of Words

6 min read

A profound parable illustrating the uncontainable nature of harmful words, likening them to feathers scattered by the wind. It underscores the importance of mindful speech and the consequences of lashon hara in a tight-knit community.

A Parable on Lashon Hara “Evil Speech”

In a small and tightly-knit village lived two men, Yosef and Shimon. They were known for their friendship, which was as deep as the roots of the ancient olive tree that grew in the center of their village.

One day, Shimon, in a moment of frustration and thoughtlessness, spoke ill of a fellow villager. Yosef, overhearing these words, was saddened but remained silent.

Weeks passed, and the harsh words spread like wildfire through the village, causing division and hurt. The unity that once blossomed in the village began to wither, much like the leaves of the ancient olive tree during a drought.

Distraught by the unfolding events, Yosef sought counsel from the village elder, a wise and humble man. The elder listened intently and then led Yosef to the top of a hill, where he handed him a pillow filled with feathers.

“Open the pillow and let the feathers fly into the wind,” the elder instructed.

Yosef did as he was told, and the feathers danced in the breeze, scattering in all directions.

“Now,” said the elder, “go and collect each feather.”

Yosef looked at the elder, bewildered, “But that’s impossible! The feathers have gone too far; I could never retrieve them all.”

The elder looked into Yosef’s eyes and said, “So it is with words. Once spoken, they cannot be taken back. They float on the winds and reach ears and hearts far beyond our control. They have the power to uplift or to destroy.”

The village eventually healed, but the lesson lingered in the hearts of Yosef, Shimon, and their community. They learned to weigh their words, to speak with kindness and caution, knowing that the strength of their village lay not in the ancient olive tree but in the bonds that connected them.

The Lesson We Can Learn from The Parable

The lesson of this parable echoes the timeless wisdom found in our tradition: the prohibition against lashon hara. Words are more than mere sounds; they are vessels that carry our intentions, our emotions, and our very essence. They can create worlds or destroy them, foster love or ignite hatred. The choice is ours.

The Essence of Words

Our parable begins with the uncontainable wind, a metaphor for the uncontrollable nature of speech. The mystical understanding of speech can be found in the teachings of the Arizal (Rabbi Isaac ben Solomon Luria), in “Etz Chaim,” Shaar 50, who elaborates on the spiritual power of words, a creation that transcends the physical realm.

Unity and Connection

The ancient olive tree symbolizes unity and connection within the community. The Midrash in Vayikra Rabbah 21:2 likens Israel to the olive tree, emphasizing the unity and bonding that the olive tree represents. The drought causing the withering of the leaves can be likened to the destruction that ensues from lashon hara, as explained by Ramban in his commentary on Leviticus 19:16.

A Fire That Consumes

The Talmud in Arachin 15b discusses the grave sin of lashon hara, comparing it to the three cardinal sins of murder, idolatry, and adultery. Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan in his seminal work “Chafetz Chaim,” Hilchot Lashon Hara 1:3, elucidates on the devastating effects of harmful speech. The comparison of harsh words to wildfire illustrates the Chafetz Chaim’s teaching that the spread of lashon hara is like a fire that consumes everything in its path.

The Impossibility of Retracting Words

The allegory of feathers scattered by the wind emphasizes the impossibility of retracting spoken words. This profound lesson is reflected in the Talmudic teaching in Yoma 86a that one who speaks lashon hara is as though he denies HaShem. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in “Mesillat Yesharim,” Chapter 11, explains the severity of this sin and the lasting damage it inflicts.

The Timeless Prohibition Against Lashon Hara

The village elder’s wisdom teaches the eternal lesson of our tradition against lashon hara. This lesson can be traced back to the Torah in Leviticus 19:16, “You shall not go as a gossipmonger among your people.” Rashi, commenting on this verse, draws our attention to the destructive nature of words and the care one must take to guard one’s speech.

The Power of Words to Create and Destroy

The healing of the village emphasizes the dual power of words to both create and destroy. The Kabbalistic teachings in the “Zohar,” Volume II, 182a, explain the deep connection between speech and creation, emphasizing the responsibility to use this divine power with caution and wisdom.

What Have We Learned?

In conclusion, the parable of “The Uncontainable Wind” is rich with wisdom, illuminating the teachings of our Torah, Talmud, and Kabbalistic tradition on the essence of words, the unity of community, the severity of lashon hara, and the eternal choice we hold in our speech. It calls us to weigh our words and speak with kindness, recognizing that our strength lies not in external symbols but in the bonds that connect us with one another.


  • Mundane Words
    • Talmud, Berakhot 31a – Proper speech and thought in prayer
    • Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot 2:3 – Moderation in speech
  • Inappropriate Speech
    • Talmud, Nedarim 22a – Inappropriate jesting
    • Sefer Chofetz Chaim, Hilchot Lashon Hara 1:4 – Guidelines on improper speech
  • Lashon Hara
    • Talmud, Erchin 15b – Severity of lashon hara
    • Chafetz Chaim, Hilchot Lashon Hara – Comprehensive laws of lashon hara
    • Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot 7:2 – The prohibition against lashon hara
    • Leviticus 19:16 – Torah source for prohibition against lashon hara
    • Rashi on Leviticus 19:16 – Destructive nature of words
  • Creation with Speech
    • Zohar, Volume II, 161a – Creation through speech
    • Kabbalah, Sha’ar HaYichud of the Mittler Rebbe – Connection of speech and creation
    • Etz Chaim, Shaar 50 – Arizal’s teaching on the spiritual power of words
  • Destruction Through Words
    • Talmud, Bava Metzia 58b – Emotional harm through words
    • Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 237 – Prohibition against causing distress with words
    • Ramban on Leviticus 19:16 – Effects of lashon hara
    • Mesillat Yesharim, Chapter 11 – Lasting damage from lashon hara
  • Chillul HaShem
    • Talmud, Yoma 86a – The gravity of Chillul HaShem
    • Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah 5:11 – Definitions and laws of Chillul HaShem
    • Zohar, Volume III, 53b – Kabbalistic understanding of Chillul HaShem
  • Unity and Connection
    • Midrash, Vayikra Rabbah 21:2 – Israel likened to the olive tree

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