Vayigash 5778

December 17, 2017

7 min read


Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27 )

GOOD MORNING!  Did you ever have to deal with a difficult person -- a boss, a co-worker, a relative? Ever have some yell and scream at you, wrongly criticize you, blow up at you?

Chances are that the experience got your adrenaline going and your first response was to cut him/her off and correct him/her! That would be the usual and typical response -- and then the situation escalates and when it's over, it saps your energy and keeps playing in your head. If that's what happens, then know that you are human!

I am going to share with you some thoughts on how to defuse the situation and so that it won't chip away at your sense of self and self-worth! Here is the 6 Step Plan!

1) Do NOT interrupt -- let the person blow himself out. Our Sages teach in Pirke Avos, Ethics of the Fathers 4:1, "Do not try to appease someone in the time of their anger." Avoid the strong urge to respond. At least look like you're taking the person seriously, nod, keep eye contact or look down. Eventually, he will run out of steam.

It takes two to argue. Don't argue. You aren't going to win. If a person is yelling and screaming, rather than explaining and clarifying -- the issue is not likely about you. You don't know what kind of day that person had and you don't know what kind of childhood and life experiences that made him the way he is. Don't judge him, don't take yelling and screaming to heart, just deal with the situation.

2) Respond in a soft voice -- King Solomon taught in Mishle (Proverbs 15:1), "A soft voice turns away wrath." A soft voice de-escalates the situation, it tones down the emotions.

3) Find something positive to respond -- With all the rage and invectives, there's probably something there that you can learn from and take to heart or at least agree with. Reply short and sweet. "That's a good point. Thank you for letting me know." (I have a friend who has a 3 point strategy that he claims always works when his wife is angry with him: 1) He says, "Yes, dear." If that doesn't mollify her, then he says, "I'm sorry, dear." And his final response .... "I'm just a man.")

People want to be heard. They want to be taken seriously. As much as it might feel good, it enflames the conflagration to respond or to ignore. You need to reply in a measured and appropriate manner. How can you do that with emotions flying at you?

4) Re-frame the interchange -- Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the founder of Aish HaTorah, reinforced this idea with the following example: You are walking down the street and there in front of the Psychiatric Hospital is an individual in striped pajamas, barefoot -- obviously a patient -- who stops you and says, "You're the ugliest person I have ever seen. I can't believe that God saw fit to put you on this earth!" Asks Rabbi Weinberg, "Do you take his remarks seriously and get depressed and climb back into bed? No! You say "Gee, the guy has serious problems; I hope he's not violent, too!"

Our Sages teach that one doesn't transgress except if there enters into him a spirit of temporary insanity. They also teach that it is a huge transgression to belittle someone, especially in public. Would you be angry at an insane person? If it wasn't happening to you, you would have compassion and understanding. Take what is being thrown at you as coming from an insane person; be compassionate and understanding!

5) Know who owns the problem -- If someone is yelling and screaming, he owns the problem. Unless he is trying to stop someone from walking in front of an oncoming car, yelling and screaming is a manifestation of his own problems and lack of self-esteem. Everyone knows that if you wish to communicate and help someone change their behavior, yelling and screaming doesn't work. If it's his problem, you can relax a bit.

6) Focus on the merit of not responding -- The Sages teach (it may be from the Zohar) that if one belittles you and you don't respond, that you can use this great merit to get your prayers answered. Instead of focusing on the verbal attack, focus on what prayers you want answered!

If you can integrate these ideas, you will save yourself a lot of grief -- and who knows ... you may even eventually get an apology!


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Torah Portion of the week

Vayigash, Genesis 44:18 - 47:27

We left off last week with Joseph's pronouncement that he was keeping Benjamin as a slave for stealing his wine cup. Judah steps forward to challenge the decision and offers himself as a slave instead of Benjamin. Joseph is overcome with emotion, clears the room of all Egyptians and then reveals his identity to his unsuspecting brothers.

The brothers are shocked! They suspect Joseph's intentions, but accept his offer to bring the extended family to Egypt. Jacob is initially numb and disbelieving of the news, but becomes very excited to see his son.

The Torah recounts the 70 members of Jacob's family which went down to Egypt. Jacob reunites with Joseph, meets Pharaoh and settles with the family in the Goshen district. During the famine, Joseph buys up all of the property and people in Egypt for Pharaoh with the grain stored during the seven good years.

* * *

Dvar Torah
from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

The Torah states:

""Then Judah approached him (Joseph) and said, 'If you please, my lord, may your servant speak a word in my lord's ears' " (Gen. 44:18)

What did Judah intend to do?

Judah indicated that he wished to speak very softly, virtually whispering "a word in my lord's ears." What was the purpose of that? Furthermore, why does the Torah bother to tell something that does not appear significant?

The Torah is coming to teach a lesson in communications: If what you have to say really has merit, speaking softly and gently will enable you to be heard. Shouting is a giveaway that your argument is weak; the other person will tune you out and just think of his rebuttal.

King Solomon says, "The gentle words of the wise are heard above the shouts of a king over fools" (Ecclesiastes 9:17). A soft voice can actually drown out a shout.

Judah believed that his argument for the release of Benjamin was very convincing. In order to impress Joseph that what he was about to say was valid, Judah said, "I am going to say it to you softly."


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Too many of us speak twice ...
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