In today’s gospel we hear a warning from Jesus about anger and the words we use.
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” (Mt 5:21-22)
In Hebrew the word “raqa” means “empty” or “foolish.” Here is a story from the Talmud about “raqa.”
“Our Rabbis have taught: A man should always be gentle as the reed and never unyielding as the cedar. Once R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon was coming from Migdal Gedor, from the house of his teacher, and he was riding leisurely on his ass by the riverside and was feeling happy and elated because he had studied much Torah [20b]. There chanced to meet him an exceedingly ugly man who greeted him, `Peace be upon you, Sir.’ He, however, did not return his salutation but instead said to him, `RAQA, how ugly you are. Are all your fellow citizens as ugly as you are?’ The man replied: `I do not know, but go and tell the craftsman who made me, “How ugly is the vessel which you have made.’
One point Jesus makes is that what one says can increase the seriousness of the offense and one must be aware of this when angry. Be aware of the danger of using words to contradict what the Creator declared about all humans – every person is created in the image of the Creator