Double-Meaning Speech

Parsha and its fulfillment - Parashat Vayigash - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5769

The affair begins with a frontal confrontation between Yehuda and Yosef, which takes place on two levels, overt and covert. The confrontation is not symmetrical, because Yosef knows clearly who is standing before him. Yehuda believes that before him, the viceroy of Egypt is a tyrant and cunning man who has an obvious interest in harassing and abusing his brothers. He does not know that he is standing before the brother who only a few years ago, he wanted to kill and who begged helplessly for his life when they sold him to be a slave. My lord asked his servants, ‘Have you a father or another brother? We told my lord, ‘We have an old father, and there is a child of his old age, the youngest; his full brother is dead, so that he alone is left of his mother, and his father dotes on him" (Bereshit 44-19,20)

Yosef, who knew who stood before him, chose to deal with the brothers on two levels - overt and covert. On the open level, he blames the brothers for the plot of the cup, in order to present them as ungrateful lawbreakers, but in a hidden and premeditated manner he spins a sophisticated mask of events that placed the brothers on the test of brotherhood for Binyamin and examined whether the brothers repented and corrected the sin of selling him. "And Yosef tried all these efforts to bring Binyamin for the following reasons: first, to see him, because he was his brother, his mother's son, and his soul was connected with his soul, and he feared in his heart whether his brothers had killed or sold Binyamin as they did to him, and secondly, to frame him up with the cup and see if his brothers would try to save him with brotherly love, or if they would leave him in hatred of him as the son of another woman, etc. "(Abarbanel, Bereshit 42: 15-24).

Yehuda believed that he was facing the viceroy of Egypt, in order to protect Binyamin. And spoke to him as the representative of the brothers: "Then Judah went up to him and said, “Please, my lord, let your servant appeal to my lord, and do not be impatient with your servant, you who are the equal of Pharaoh. (Bereshit 44: 18)

But the Sages also describe that Yehuda uses double language, ambiguous language that also contains a hidden and sophisticated message, which is seemingly completely reversed from his words. The words chosen by Yosef also had the hidden meaning of firmness: " And let not thy wrath glow — From these words you may infer that he spoke to him in harsh terms" (Rashi 44:18), hinting that he supposedly does not ask of him but rather threatens him: "For you are equal of Pharaoh".

This means that Yehuda expects Yosef to be smart enough to absorb this implicit message in order to achieve his goal. He could not say it openly, because it would create resistance.

There are situations in which there is a need for double language and a hidden message. But one must take into consideration who is listening and whether he will understand the hidden message. As it is said of Achashverosh, he did not understand the hint that Vashti sent him: "She sent him things that touched him in his heart. She told him if they saw me pretty, they would look at me and kill you. If they saw me as ugly, you would reproach me, but the hint was not understood, (Esther Rabbah 3:14).

But there are situations in which speech in double-meaning is a form of deception. Of dishonesty. Whether it is made between one person and another or is done in the public arena. As quoted in Yirmiyahu's rebuke: " Their tongue is a sharpened arrow, they use their mouths to deceive. One speaks to his fellow in friendship but lays an ambush for him in his heart." (Yirmiyahu 9: 7). They openly spoke of peace, but their hidden intentions were words of hate & hatred.

Even worse is, double-talk in the public and political arena, when there is no public transparency. When we talk about a certain thing, and do not reveal our true intentions and the interests hidden behind it.

When presenting a public and governmental move for a particular purpose, but in fact, in a concealed manner, it is intended for a different purpose, which we do not intend to expose, because it will possibly generate public opposition.

Or when the advantages of a particular move are presented, and its shortcomings are blurred.

Or when presenting facts, to disqualify someone, you attack this person for something, when in fact you want to disqualify him because of something completely different, but you are not interested in revealing because it is clearly inappropriate.

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