The following is part of an excerpt from an email I received from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. To receive a daily email, click here.
"...A Torah scholar once posed the following question: If one has failed to concentrate while reciting the Shemoneh Esrei prayer and finds himself near its conclusion, with what approach can he inspire himself to pray the remainder of the prayer with proper concentration? The scholar offered a solution by way of a parable:
A young girl was standing in the marketplace with a large basket of apples for sale. Suddenly, a thief approached and began to snatch apples out of the basket. The girl became confused and stood helplessly, not knowing what to do. Someone who was watching from a distance called out to her, “Why are you standing still? What are you waiting for —that he should grab everything? Just as he is grabbing, so should you grab- whatever you can get will still be yours!”
And so it is regarding prayer. If one was overcome by lethargy and mindless daydreaming at the start of the Shemoneh Esrei, and suddenly finds himself near the prayer’s end without having “grabbed any apples,” this does not mean that he should give up and leave himself with nothing. Rather, he should strive with all his inner strength to concentrate on the remaining blessings.
And so it is, exactly, with shmiras haloshon. You stumbled this morning and spoke the forbidden? Then stand ready this afternoon to overcome your evil inclination and refrain from forbidden talk...."
There is a video on YouTube where President Obama claimed that his father served in World War II. Since both his father and stepfather were too young to serve in the war, his words were being dutifully scrutinized. One comment posted stated, "It was a misspeak. His grandfather, on his mother's side, served in WWII."
Here we have a vivid example of how we have to speak carefully. Our words are being judged. Once spoken, they can't be taken back. So, let's make an effort to not cause insult to others, or bring harm upon ourselves. Think before you speak.