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Rabbi's weekly messages

Pinchas- Conflict resolution

How would you respond?

Someone really pushed your buttons. You feel like really giving them a piece of your mind. But then you pause and remember a wise piece of advice from five sisters in this week's Torah portion. 

The five daughters of Zelophehad approach Moses, and speak up to demand they inherit their father's plot in the Holy Land. Moses is unsure due to the circumstances surrounding their case and inquires with G-d. The response is a resounding victory for their case: "Zelophehad's daughters speak justly."

They get a lot of credit for their role. Many commentaries describe them as wise and righteous. But let me ask you - what wisdom and righteousness lies in a person's natural desire and demand to inherit their father's estate? Isn't it plainly instinctive?

The Talmud points out, that credit is due to the daughters of Zelophehad not for speaking up, but actually for keeping quiet for so long. Why?! The issue of the inheritance has been on their mind ever since their father's passing 39 years earlier years earlier. Their wisdom consisted of waiting for the right time to broach the subject, the time when their speaking up would actually be most effective.

The daughters of Zelophehad showed us how, indeed it is unwise to keep issues to ourselves. We need to speak up and share our mind, as our Bubby's would say: don't let them treat you like a shmatte. But it requires an extra dose of wisdom to wait for the right time, when our words will be most effective.

If we are just trying to unload what's on our mind, it may not matter when we do it. But if we are hoping to effect change and influence the other, we need to pause and ask: Is the other person in a state of mind where they can actually listen to what I'm saying, or should I wait until tomorrow morning when their anger has subsided. 

Yes, it is important to say the right thing... but it is also important to say it at the right time!


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