The Medrash Rabba’s commentary on the opening Pasuk in this week’s Parsha “And Yehuda approached him,” contains a profound insight. The medrash quotes a different Pasuk – from Mishlei (Proverbs) (25:11) which says “ (Like) Golden apples in trays of silver, (so is) a word spoken in its proper place.” Akilas (Onkelos) explains this refers to (Yehuda’s) speech as being that of one who “spoke his words in their (proper) place. Just as the many faceted splendor of the golden apples and shining silver tray give off a sparkle in every direction, so too do words properly spoken reverberate in all directions. ”
We know that Yehuda was called upon to give “the speech of his life” at this critical juncture when the fate of Binyamin and all of Israel hung in the balance. As explained by our Rosh HaYeshiva, HaRav HaGaon R’ Henach Leibowitz zt’l, for a person’s words to penetrate another’s heart and make a real impact, the speaker first needs to bring many things to the table. A Torah leader, in particular, must have impeccable midos, be accomplished in Torah and Yiras Shomayim (fear of heaven), be honest and sincere, and have genuine concern for the welfare of the person he’s speaking to. Yehuda was this and much more – he was a Gadol – great beyond our imagination.
The Rosh HaYeshiva explains that what the Medrash is telling us is that despite all of Yehuda’s greatness, sincerity and heartfelt passion for what he was saying, it all would have fallen short, if the quality of his words were lacking. On top of all that he was and brought to the fore, if he had not spoken masterfully with a quality of diction and vocabulary, measured cadence and artful delivery, his message would not have penetrated, his words would have failed to hit their target.
This lesson should not be lost on us. We rightfully strive to inculcate our children with the same values and traits that Yehuda was so outstanding in. We place great emphasis on building a person with a foundation of mentschlichkeit, Torah and Yiras Shomayim. We fill them with lessons of goodness and midos tovos. We see from this medrash that there is one other component that must be instilled as well – the ability to communicate properly, articulate ideas and share them in a well-rounded fashion with others. While of course we need to maintain a balance and not focus too much on the externals of good speech and appealing presentation, we nevertheless cannot ignore it or denigrate it.
May Hashem help us in laying our children’s foundations deeply rooted in the values and wisdom of our people, and topped off with golden abilities to relate those values and lessons to friend and foe, and create a tremendous Kiddush Hashem by being who they are and through all that they do.
Have a sparkling Shabbos!
Rabbi Kalman Baumann