26 Nov 2014 Brotherly Love
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Vayeitzei, Yaakov Avinu arrives at a well, on his way to the house of his uncle Lavan, as he flees from before his brother Eisav. Upon arrival at the well, he sees groups of shepherds, along with their flocks, congregating around the well. Yaakov – a stranger from a strange land – admonishes the shepherds for not completing their day’s work, “The day is still long,” he says to them, “it is not yet time to bring the livestock in; water the flock and go on grazing.”
The shepherds reply that once all the flocks have gathered at the well, they will roll the stone from upon the mouth of the well, and they will then water their flocks (see Bereishis 29:1-8 w/ Rashi to v.7).
R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky zt’l asks: Why don’t the shepherds at the well react sharply to Yaakov Avinu’s criticism, especially since it came from a complete stranger, who knew nothing of their situation or of the local customs?
R’ Yaakov answers this question with a piercing insight: When Yaakov begins speaking to them (29:4), he addresses them kindly, and prefaces his question and rebuke with a single word of great value, “אַחַי – my brothers.”
We learn from here how great is the koach ha’dibur – the power of speech. The shepherds listened to Yaakov Avinu and acknowledged him, because he spoke kindly to them and treated them with respect.
“אַחַי – my brothers”…
At the very moment of the creation of man, Targum Onkelos teaches that man differs from animals in that man became a speaking spirit (Onkelos to Gen.2:7). We have been given a wonderful gift; let us strive to always use it well.
Wishing you a good Shabos,