In classic Judaic philosophy, worldly existence is divided into four strata: The inanimate, the growing (vegetative), the living (animal life) and the speaking (human).

It seems curious that we do not describe the human as “thinker” or “engineer” or by any other quality that humans exclusively possess.

The answer seems to be that the true potential of humanity, for good or evil, lies in the capacity for speech.

The individual human can accomplish but little. All the accomplishments and disasters wrought by humanity are by virtue of communication.

The accomplishment of the first farmer or shepherd lay in inspiring a group of people to work together to create nutrition and raiment in a new way that one person thought of.

This was through words, through communication.

All of human power has always been an expression of a plurality united and directed by words.

Abraham and Sarah taught monotheistic decency by words. Pharaoh enslaved the people of Israel by words of fear and prejudice directed at the Egyptians.

Beliefs promulgated by words held peoples in the thrall of autocracy, and beliefs expressed in words convinced yet others to throw off those chains.

The fate of the Armenians in 1915-17 was woven of words—in hate-filled sermons and telegraphed instructions.

The power of Hitler was in his words that convinced German people to join together in utter evil.

It was words over radio that set in motion the Rwandan massacre.

Yet, it was the power of Churchill’s words that inspired the British people, against all odds, to turn back the German menace.

It was words that caused Jews in the United States—in the depths of the Great Depression—to give of their often meager resources to the American Joint Distribution Committee and many other charities, thereby saving untold numbers in Europe.

It is words that have created every charitable endeavor in human history.

It is words that have led to equality of human rights that we enjoy in so much of the world.

It is words uniting citizens to action that have enabled these United States to be a source of so much benefit to humanity.

And now, it is words spread at the speed of light in a world where we each have more power to be heard than ever before—that threaten to tear us apart.

Words of hate like those chanted by neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., that not only inspire deeds of violence and even murder, but which create an increasingly fragmented archipelago of identities.

A world where smaller and smaller groups live in ever-shrinking echo chambers where we only hear ourselves and those just like us.

It has been suggested that the solution is that we talk to each other, but we often do, and end up screaming at the other for being an other. Something more is needed.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—once counseled the members of a newly formed ruling coalition in the Israeli Knesset who sought his advice.

He suggested that they ought not to begin by pushing for legislation that was most expressive of their views vis a vis the opposition.

Rather, they ought to find matters that needed rectification in Israeli society that all sides could agree upon and thereby create an atmosphere of trust, cooperation and mutual respect.

This is not just advice for politicians.

There is so much that needs repair in our nation, so many initiatives that can help us. We ought to identify them, starting at the most local level, speak to each other across divides about them, and then act together to make them real in our neighborhoods.

This also applies to online communities, where much good can be done in very creative ways.

It is words that will create shared deeds of goodness and kindness that in turn will create more shared words, which will drive out the words of division, which will enable the world to prevail over evil.

The key is to look for goals that we agree need accomplishing and can be attained without giving up on one’s core beliefs.

Like the words Churchill used to rally his nation against the Nazis during World War II, we need to stand together to defeat today’s neo-Nazis and be stronger as a united society.

As Proverbs says (18:21 as per Ibn Ezra): “Death and Life are in the hands of the tongue, and one eats the fruits of that [the type of words] which we [choose to] love.”