Each of us can have an amazing effect through the power of speech. This week’s Parasha provides 2 stark examples. In one, Jacob sentences his beloved Rachel to an early and untimely death. In the other, Lavan gives an eternal blessing. Jacob so loved Rachel. How could he have pronounced a death sentence over her? Lavan is the prototype of selfish, deceptive, wickedness. How and to whom could he give blessings? Is it mere superstition that we are told to guard our tongues because what we say—even if sincere and even if only in the heat of the moment—may come true?
Scene 1. Jacob leaves Lavan with his children and wives in great haste. Jacob did not know that in an effort to stop her father’s idol worship, Rachel had stolen her father’s household idols (or iDols–iPhone 5, iPad 2). Lavan follows in hot pursuit. He told Lavan, “Whoever has your idols, let them die!” Genesis 31:32. Of course, Jacob did not know that it was Rachel. Jacob believed that either Lavan was simply wrong or that whoever stole them did so for personal use. In that case, there was no place for an idol worshipper in Jacob’s household and death is the appropriate punishment. Oh how frequently we speak impulsively or assume we know all of the facts and background of a situation before judging or speaking. In this case, Jacob did both and the sages say that it was his utterance that unwittingly yielded the most undesirable of results.
Scene 2. After Jacob and Lavan make peace, the Torah tells us that Lavan kissed and blessed his daughters and grandchildren. Genesis 32:1. The commentators have always said that a blessing from anyone should be treated with respect, and this case proves that even the most wicked of individuals can give a blessing if given with total sincerity. What more sincere blessing is there than the one a grandparent gives to a grandchild?
Let us all fully comprehend a situation before speaking. Better yet, let us never judge because it is impossible for us to know the whole story. Even better, let us never wish ill on anyone. Rather, let us all be a source and messenger of sincere blessings.
This Shabbat we learn with Ruth Bergman. 10:00 a.m. This is great, come as you are learning. Be a part of it.