This week’s Torah portion is called Emor, which means “say.” The name of each portion holds special significance and a lesson for life. The Midrash says regarding the opening words of our Parshah, “the sayings of G‑d are pure sayings.” Emor is a command to say something pure, emulating G‑d. While we were already taught not to speak ill about others, here the Torah wants us to say something positive about another.

Our words have power.

When we speak negatively about someone, we affect that person negatively. This is why lashon hara (“evil speech”) is so bad. It damages three people: the speaker, the listener, and especially, the one being spoken about.

In the same way, speaking positively about someone will affect that person positively.

But how can I speak well of a person who does wrong? He received a Jewish education just like me; he should know better!

There are two answers, both found in Pirkei Avot, “The Ethics of Our Fathers.”

The first is: “Don’t judge your comrade until you are in his situation.” By this measure, when you see your friend failing in a certain area, you should consider the circumstance that may have caused him to fall short. If he would have been in more favorable circumstances, then he would not have failed.

The problem with this approach is that although you have found a way to explain away your friend’s failings, he remains a failure in your eyes. This, obviously, cannot be the message of our parshah, which enjoins us to speak positively .

The second is: “Judge every person favorably.” Here, you focus on the positive. You recognize that every person is given challenges, according to the loftiness of his soul. The greater the soul, the greater the challenge, the greater the ability to overcome. Along these lines, you see the positive qualities in your friend. Although there seems to be a negative, you choose not to focus on that. Eventually, if you practice this approach long enough, you will cease to see the negative and only see the greatness in others.

Now, this is worth saying. Imagine how this boost of true praise will affect the person being spoken about. This kind of praise can strengthen him. This is the kind of speech the name of our parshah alludes to.

Even when I was young, I tried to find ways to lift other’s spirits. Of course, I said hurtful things, too, which I regret. But over the years, I have trained myself to see good things in people and to compliment them.

Everyone has good in them; everyone has something worthy of some praise. When you expose that good, you raise the spirit of that person. And there is nothing better than that.