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Speak Up

Do you speak up when you have a good idea? Do you speak up to give over a compliment, a bit of good advice or an encouraging word? Too often, people are reluctant to speak up when they have something constructive to say. Oddly, when it comes to criticism or witty comments at another person’s expense, this reticence seems to disappear.

The name of this week’s Torah portion is Emor, Speak. Like all names of Torah portions, this name reflects on the content of the entire portion. The portion contains many different mitzvoth, all preceded by a command to Moses, to deliver them to the Jewish people. Yet the word emor itself teaches us a lesson.

It’s not the thought that counts. Good thoughts need to be put into words, which need to be put into action. Before a person says something, certainly he or she deliberated on it for a while. However, the cogitation is not enough. The words also
have to be expressed.

Why is the spoken word so important? Why not go directly from thought to action? Why the need to involve another person at all?

We do not know what lies in another person’s heart. We can guess, we can intuit, but there is no way of knowing for sure unless the sensations are put into words. If we think well of someone, he or she will never know of it unless we speak up.
If we have a good idea, a good plan to implement, by talking over the idea with others we can enlist their aid and support, and let them share in the benefits.

Last week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim, dealt with the mitzvah of “Love your fellow as yourself.” One aspect of Ahavat Yisrael is that if you have something good, let someone else share and benefit from it as well. The same applies to a good thought. If you have an insight or a good thought, share it with others. Speak up and share your thoughts.

It is self-understood that speaking up alone is not enough. We must also strive to find the right words and the right approach, so that our words will be effective and beneficial.

In Hebrew there are two synonyms for speech: Emor and Daber. What is the difference between the two? Daber usually refers to a harsher form of speech, while emor is softer. Daber is to exhort, to demand, while emor is to speak in a gentle tone; to request, to persuade.

The command to speak to a friend, to influence, to exhort, must be in a gentle, pleasant tone, in a manner of emor. Not to cast dread on the speaker, to speak disdainfully or demandingly. As King Solomon writes in Kohelet, “The words of the wise, spoken gently, are heard.”

This is the lesson to take home from this week’s Torah portion, Emor. Don’t suffice with thoughts alone. Put them into words. Words that are constructive, therapeutic, encouraging. You never know when a good word coming in the right moment can uplift someone and set their world right. And as Maimonides says, with one good deed you can set the entire world right and bring salvation and blessing to us all.



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