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To show respect, no matter what

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

I recently read the following thought, and it has already benefited me on a number of occasions: Even when we find fault or passionately disagree, we can still monitor the words that come out of our mouths. The language that we use is liable to be insulting and make matters worse if we are not careful about what we say.

In this week's Torah portion, Moshe Rabbeinu recounts to the people the sin of the golden calf, but notice how he describes what happened. He does not use the word "calf." Instead, the passage reads: "They made for themselves a molten image." Our commentators explain that Moshe is careful to show respect for the children of Israel and not to remind them explicitly of their vile deed.

We are living in an age of exaggerated directness in our speech, to the point of callousness, and need to remind ourselves: It's not a disadvantage or a sign of weakness to be sensitive and respectful. It's an advantage and a sign of strength.

If there is an eternal connection between us, a common future, and a covenant that binds all of us together - just as there is between us and God - and if we truly desire to pardon, to forgive, and to go forward, it's preferable to blur and to minimize our criticism, not to humiliate and not to bring up matters that are best forgotten. Even regarding the golden calf, there is no need to mention the details of what occurred. After all, our purpose is not to win arguments or make others feel disrespected for what they did in the past, but rather to move forward together into the future.


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