One good word at a time

One good word at a time

Congratulation, Elon Musk!

Not only because of your semi-successful launch of Starship, but also on hiring a pretty clever PR team for SpaceX.

Last week, SpaceX launched Starship, the largest and most powerful spacecraft ever built. But after four minutes of flight, something happened. In the words of the official SpaceX Twitter, it experienced “rapid unscheduled disassembly.”

Boy, am I glad that no astronauts were on board, because they would have experienced an “early cessation of their corporal existence” due to “early termination of their biological functions!”

It’s both amusing and fascinating.

It’s amusing to see corporate types using convoluted language to diminish their failure.

But it’s also fascinating because it makes us realize words can shape our emotions and thoughts. The Starship exploded? It sounds like a disaster. But it only experienced rapid unscheduled disassembly — now it feels like things are under control.

When we realize the power of words, we can make wise decisions to use our words in a powerful, positive way. Even when we need to communicate something that is not positive, we can still do it positively.

Using positive language is a Jewish value.

The Talmud discusses how the Torah describes non-kosher animals indirectly, using additional language to avoid negative terminology.

The rebbe was a notable advocate for using positive language in our time.

He would refer to evil as “not good,” death as “the opposite of life,” and darkness as “the opposite of light.” As Rabbi Joseph Telushkin writes in his biography, “Rebbe,” he would even prefer to use the term “due date” instead of “deadline.”

Is it just semantics? Not at all. It was an intentional way to use speech as an agent of positive change.

Words can also have healing power.

We just entered the Hebrew month of Iyar. This month is known as “the month of healing,” since the acronym of Iyar is “Ani Hashem Rofecha,” “I am God, your healer.”

In 1977, the rebbe met with Professor Mordechai Shani, then the director of Sheba Hospital, the largest hospital in Israel. He asked him to consider changing the hospital’s name, and instead of using the Hebrew term “Beit Cholim,” a house of the sick, to introduce the name “Beit Refua,” a house of healing.

Following the meeting, the rebbe wrote a letter to urge the professor to consider this name change. He provided two reasons why it would be the right thing to do.

First, it will have a positive impact on the patients; they will feel that they come to seek healing and not label themselves as sick.

“Even more importantly,” the rebbe added, “this is a more fitting name for this institution since the purpose and the essence of this house are all about healing.”

Today, virtually all hospitals in Israel are referred to as “Merkaz Refui,” a healing center. And the word “health” has become an integral part of hospital names all over the world.

While SpaceX continues working on its ambitious goal of sending humans to Mars, we should continue with our ambitious goal of making our precious little planet a better place for all. One good word at a time.

Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Rabbi of Chabad of Hackensack. He welcomes your comments at

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