Filibuster Debate Flares in L.I. Synagogue (Developing Story) Members of Congregation Chabad of Mineola NY are at wits' end. Rabbi Anchelle Perl, their spiritual leader, has been steadily increasing the length of his weekly Sabbath sermon. "It's simply getting out of hand," commented one congregant. "Last Shabbat's speech reached crisis proportions—two hours long! I think we have a 'Filibuster of a Rabbi' on our hands."

An emergency meeting was called to assess the situation. "While the filibuster may be a legitimate, Constitutionally-condoned device used in the Senate to delay or prevent a vote by time-consuming talk, for a rabbi to use such a tactic to block the timely eating of gefilte fish, cholent and kishke is unheard of! This may be the first time in Jewish history that a rabbi is standing behind the rules of a filibuster to deny fellow congregants their gastronomical rights to their Sabbath culinary delights..."

In a rare show of bi-partisan initiative, both Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senate Democratic leader Harry M. Reid have been approached to help resolve this issue on Long Island...

Speech is the tool of creation. Through it we can build individuals and the world. We can praise, encourage and give others confidence. By making others feel important, we build them up, in effect saying to them: "Your existence is necessary." This is life-giving and life-affirming.

On the other hand, speech can also be used to destroy. Words like "you're worthless" wipe out a person's self-esteem. Remember the expression, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? Nothing can be further than the truth. Beyond the individual destruction, we have all seen the power of gossip—a vicious rumor—to tear apart relationships, families, and even entire communities.

As King Solomon says, "Life and death are in the hands of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21). The Talmud explains that negative speech is even worse than a sword — since it kills many people, even at great distance.

Why do people gossip? What would motivate one person to speak badly about another? Low self-esteem.

When a person feels down about himself, there are two ways to feel better. He or she can either a) make the effort to work and build himself up (this is a lot of hard work, though), or b) put others down. The reasoning being, if I can put down others, then I don't look so bad by comparison. The media has built an empire around knocking down big targets like movie stars, politicians and business leaders. For the average person who may see himself languishing in mediocrity, it is a source of aggravation to see others' success in life. So, knock them down and problem solved!

But that's the easy way, the "quick high." And is that the kind of person we want to be? In the final analysis, would we not prefer to have our self-image buttressed by what we have accomplished?

But enough said. I promised my congregation that I'll be cutting down on my speaking time...