Rabbi Zvi Teichman
What defines a human is the ability to communicate through words.
There are two words used primarily to describe ‘talking’: וידבר and ויאמר.
The power of speech can inspire as well as destroy.
Moshe is summoned by G-d to instruct the Kohanim of their obligations, אמור — Say to the Kohanim… ואמרת — and tell them… (כא א)
Rashi explains the redundancy in the verse, say… tell, as alluding to the Kohanim’s responsibility to educate their children; Moshe is to “say” to the Kohanim that they should “tell” their children. The Kohanim must convey a message of inspiration by effectively communicating with their children.
At the end of our portion the painful episode of the dejected son of Shlomis bas Divri is reported. Having been fathered by an Egyptian taskmaster who ravished his mother, he found himself cast out from the encampment of the Tribe of Dan he sought to enter, due to his lack of a Jewish father. In utter frustration he lashes out at his unfortunate circumstance by blaspheming G-d.
This compulsive ‘utterance’ cost him his life.
The Torah attributes his dire predicament to his mother, Shlomis bas Divri.
Rashi elucidates by informing us that she ‘earned’ her name שלומית through her too casual conversation with everyone she met, greeting all; “שלם עלך שלם עלך, how are you? how are you. He continues to explain her second appellation as well, בת דברי, as referring to her reputation as a דברנית, a ‘chatterer’, inquiring of everyone’s welfare. It was this loose nature that brought her and her son to ruin.
The accent here appears to be on ‘דיבור’ not אמירה; she was a דברנית. Her failure lies in her faulty דיבור.
The Kohanim are to implement אמירה in order to impart their mission passionately so that it may be carried on effectively to their children.
Is there a message in this contrast?
The Malbim points out that דיבור can be used to imply the ability to express oneself even in the absence of another who is listening. When used in communicating with someone else it means to speak ‘with’ that individual, rather than ‘to’ that other. It emphasizes the connection more than the message.
אמירה on the other hand always intimates an expression of substance and meaning that is being conveyed ‘to’ that other person. One never finds אמירה in conjunction with עם — with.
The accent is on the message, not the relationship. (
The very first account of human communication in the Torah is when Kayin confronts his brother Hevel.
ויאמר — Kayin spoke with his brother Hevel… and killed him. ( ,
The Torah does not reveal the actual exchange of words that took place between them. It merely states that he ‘spoke’. The Vilna Gaon says it is irrelevant from where his jealously stemmed from. The issue the Torah seeks to accentuate is how Kayin used his ‘soft talk’ to lull Hevel into dangerous complacency so he could strike him down. Kayin abused the power of the ‘message’ in conveying false sincerity, which enabled him to kill Hevel.
The Midrash says that Kayin was vying for the beautiful additional twin sister that was born with Hevel, whom Kayin sought to claim by right of his being the firstborn.
(ב כב ז פי
This ‘sister’ although never addressed directly, was perhaps smitten by the passion of her suitor. In Kayin’s kindly conversation with Hevel he was subtly seeking a ‘connection’ to this available sister, and in his expression sought to create a bond with her. Kayin took her as his wife after he was the only possible candidate after having removed Hevel.
This woman subconsciously absorbed the notion of the instinctive power of connectivity that can be aroused through ‘talk’ and words, even in the absence of any meaningful relationship, drawing solely on raw passion.
Rav Chaim Vital writes that the Egyptian who lured away and killed the husband of Shlomis who subsequently vanquished her and impregnated her, was a gilgul of Kayin. Shlomis was the gilgul of the extra twin sister. Moshe being the gilgul of Hevel affected a tikkun for Kayin’s soul by killing the Egyptian. The child born from this illicit union embodied the evilness of Kayin. (
The Holy Arizal states that Aharon HaKohen served as a tikkun for Kayin as well. Kayin was after all the firstborn child who was traditionally designated to serve G-d, as indeed he initiated the first sacrifice in recorded history. (ליקוטי נביאים יחזקאל פ
Kayin who had corrupted the power of אמירה by hiding behind a facade of kindly words, would find a tikkun in the sincere and warm message of the Sons of Aharon. They would successfully communicate and bond with careful, sensitive, and genuine words, and teach a lesson that would infuse for all of posterity that this family of Priests would reflect a genuine love similar to that of their beloved progenitor, Aharon.
When דיבור becomes merely a tool by which one gets noticed, bereft of any significant feelings, where one seeks merely to satisfy one’s instinctive craving for attention, it leads so often to indulgence and sin.
Shlomis the inheritor of that poisonous power of connectivity, without direction and purpose, was held accountable for the terrible results.
Why does one ‘seek the welfare’ of everyone indiscriminately? Why does one enjoy purposeless chatter? Because it gives them a false sense of being valued. But when the attention one gets is not based on values or true self-worth, it descends rapidly to depravity.
She was a דברנית, as the Malbim teaches, someone just desperate for attention, a shallow relationship devoid of content.
In a world that is measured by superficial expressions of ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’, or by the number of people one has ‘friended’, is it any wonder we struggle with anxiety, depression and promiscuousness in unprecedented numbers.
The blasphemer who was bred in an environment of superficiality cannot possibly possess the depth necessary to deal with frustration. He knows of only one way to draw attention; by cursing in a knee jerk expression of utter frustration empty of any true meaning.
Each one of us possesses a brilliant inner light. We often neglect it allowing it to smolder.
We artificially stoke it by busying ourselves socially without any purpose or goal.
If only we would appreciate ourselves. If only others would see our inner essence would we be able ignite into a flame of passionate devotion to G-d.
The 33rd ( letter in the Torah is טוב, good, referring to the light of creation that illuminated the world, allowing others as well as ourselves to see clearly without bias, the beauty in the world and in ourselves.
The students of Rabbi Akiva who perished, didn’t allow that light to burn brightly. They were caught up in their own selfish arrogance. Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the five students who revived Rabbi Akiva’s legacy for all of posterity, told his students: אנן בחביבותא תליא, our survival is contingent on the cherishing of one another! (ח קכח.)
So often the way we speak to one another is lined with selfish interests or conniving maneuvers, to advance our own interests. So often we relate to others only to stoke our own egos or to gain a sense of being.
If we would only open our eyes and see the greatness in those we interact with. If only we would have the courage to express our feelings sincerely and with true love. If we do, we would revive to life so many who walk around with feelings of rejection and dejection.
Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai revealed that when we will see new and startling colors in the rainbow it is a sign that Moshiach will come soon.
Perhaps I may suggest that this means that when we can see within the clouds, that obscure our vision, a light that refracts beautiful qualities that are inherent within others, will we be deserving that the Moshiach will come! Speedily in our times!