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Rabbi's Message, Parshat  Vayigash

12/10/2021 12:11:04 PM


Rabbi Benjamin Samuels

The weight of words… Many begin their study of this week’s parashah focusing on action: “Vayigash Eilav Yehudah - And Judah approached (Gen 44:18).” Judah assumes responsibility, steps forward, and argues the brothers’ case to the viceroy of Egypt, who unbeknownst to them is none other than their long-lost sibling Joseph. Judah acts and exercises leadership.

Action is key, but I am stuck on words. Seventeen verses into Judah’s plea, Joseph breaks: “Then Joseph could not control himself” (45:1). Which of Judah’s words changed Joseph’s heart? Of course, it is the cumulative weight of telling Joseph of their father’s inconsolable mourning for Joseph, but what was the tipping point?

There is an expression “weighing our words,” which denotes carefully choosing our words. But underlying the expression is the idea that some words weigh more heavily than others. Some words bring a smile to another’s face; others cause tears. Some words bond people with love, and others strike as a dagger to the heart. Sometimes we know precisely the weight of our words, but often we are not adequately sensitive to how others hear the words we use, especially in asymmetrical relationships: parents and children, teachers and students, bosses and workers.

Words broke Joseph. May we learn to use our words to build up others.

Shabbat Shalom, Rav Benjie

Sat, April 1 2023 10 Nisan 5783