The Gentle Way to Educate

Parshat Emor

The Gentle Way to Educate

G-d spoke to Moses saying, “speak to Aaron.” –Leviticus 21:16-17

The Torah mainly uses two Hebrew words for “speaking.” The first (dibur) is reserved for “hard speech,” the straightforward, accurate delivery of the message. The second (Amirah) is “soft speech,” i.e., tailoring the message to its intended recipient in order to ensure that it is indeed received and clearly understood.

The first part of this section of the Torah, which contains the laws regarding the priests’ duty to educate their children in the responsibilities of the priesthood, is couched exclusively in “soft speech.” It is only when G-d returns to the other laws concerning the priests that He once again uses “hard speech.”

This teaches us that we must educate primarily with “soft speech.” In order to be effective, educators must relate fully to their students and tailor their style of delivery accordingly.

G-d’s imperative regarding how the priests educate their youth applies to us all. Whenever we see in someone a behavior or attitude that is in need of inspiration or correction, we are immediately cast by Divine providence in the role of educator. In all such cases, we must remember G-d’s instruction to make exclusive use of “soft speech.”