Talk Gently

The following is based on a Hebrew Text from Reb Zalman’s Sefer, Yishmiru DaatClick here for Reb Zalman’s text in Hebrew. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman)

(Leviticus 21:1) While the Torah frequently uses language such as DaBeR / speak to the Children of Israel – in this week’s Parashah it says EMoR / talk gently to the priests. (According to the Talmud, if you can talk gently to God the impact you will have on this plane is increased to such an extent that you will accomplish what you said you would Nedarim 29). To a priest, who already comes from a place of chesed / lovingkindness, (for this comes with the territory), you can just say it simply and quietly with a gentle tone, (cf Rashi, Exodus 19:3 where he says that you sometimes need to speak harshly and the implication is perhaps that this is required if the people are not from a place of chesed). But the essential element of saying something is the content of the message you are trying to get across which is not what is emphasized in (Psalms 47:4) “yaDBeR / He is speaking to the nations as though they are below us.” This latter is more about ordering around and dominating those who are stubborn. (But even for the stubborn ones, if you want to cut below their defenses and make a lasting impression, you are better off going to the deeper level, letting them open to change and this will only happen if you are gentle in the way you say your angry or critical message.)

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