A tenant recently called the office complaining that when the pest control technician came to treat his unit, they moved his oven and it needed to be hooked back up so that he can cook. “I want to cook a roach,” he said. I started feeling queasy. Cook a roach? Are you kidding me? That is the nastiness most grotesque thing I have ever heard.
I decided to do some research online and found out that contrary to popular belief, cockroaches can actually be very clean and tasty insects. They can be toasted, fried, sauteed, or boiled. In fact, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are known to have a taste and texture like greasy chicken.
It didn’t take long until I realized that I actually misheard the tenant. He did not say, “I want to cook a roach,” rather, he said, “I want to cook a roast.” You see, especially over the phone, it’s hard to hear the difference between roach and roast. But once I realized that he wanted his oven hooked back up so that he can cook his roast, that made me feel a lot better.
I was thinking about this incident and how it serves as a valuable lesson regarding the power of words. Words are one of those things that have a lot of nuances. We can say the same thing to two different people, one will be offended and one will not. We can say some thing to someone and they will take it completely the wrong way and out of context. We can talk about a roast yet the person listening will think you are talking about a roach. We can build people with our words or we can destroy them. There is so much that could go right with the usage of our words, yet so much can go wrong.
In this week’s Parsha, Parshas Vayigash, we see how Yosef HaTzaddik was extremely careful with his words. He told his brothers (44:4), “Please come closer to me,” and they drew closer. He said, “I am your brother Yosef, who you sold to Egypt.”
Let’s pause for a moment. Why did Yosef have to ask his brother’s to come closer to him when he told them, “I am your brother Yosef, who you sold to Egypt”? Couldn’t Yosef have said the same thing without having them come closer to him?
The answer is yes, of course Yosef could have done that, he could have said the same words without drawing his brothers close, but he was trying to avoid something. Namely, Yosef was trying to avoid his brothers from embarrassment.
Think about it, at this time, the only human beings on planet earth who knew that Yosef was sold was Yosef and his brothers. The Egyptians, Yaakov Avinu, and Binyamin for that matter, had no idea.
Yosef, with great kindness and compassion, made sure his brothers were close to him when he told them, “I am your brother Yosef who you sold to Egypt” so that the surrounding people would not hear about what the brothers did. Yosef felt that saying this loudly would be a breach in Lashon Harah.
What an incredible lesson we see from Yosef HaTzaddik and the importance of realizing the power of our words. May we take this message and use the incredible faculty of speech to build people, say good things, and make the world a better place.
Have a holy Shabbos! Ori Strum