This Shabbos will be the 11th of Cheshvan, the date that Rachel Imeinu passed away. As we are focusing this month of the power of words, it’s interesting to note that Chazal say that Rachel excelled in the middah of silence. How so?
Yaakov Avinu worked for 7 years to earn the privilege of marrying Rachel. But Yaakov knew that her father, Lavan, was a trickster. He was afraid that at the wedding, Lavan might try to switch Rachel for a different woman. Yaakov didn’t want to take any chances, so he gave Rachel some secret signs to use as a code to identify herself on the wedding night.1 If the woman Yaakov married would get the code right, then Yaakov would know that she was indeed Rachel, the woman he intended to marry.
When the wedding night came – as Yaakov had predicted – Lavan put Leah (Rachel’s sister) in place of Rachel and tried to marry her off to Yaakov. Yaakov asked his wife for the secret signs to make sure she was Rachel… but of course, Leah did not know the code!
Rachel felt so bad for Leah. She couldn’t bear to allow her sister to be humiliated. It was too painful for her to imagine the entire town gossiping: “Did you hear what happened last night? Lavan switched Rachel for Leah, but Yaakov figured out the plot! Yaakov only wants to marry Rachel, not Leah!” Hearing their gossip, Leah would feel so disgraced, humiliated, and unwanted.
So Rachel taught the secret code to Leah. She stayed silent about the fact that Yaakov was marrying Leah, and she did not protest the marriage. Her silence spoke volumes about how much she cared about her sister’s feelings.
In the merit of Rachel’s unbelievable silence and self-sacrifice, Hashem promised that He will one day bring the Geulah (ultimate redemption) and bring us all back to Israel.2
As we learned earlier this week, words have the power to create or destroy. We can use our words to create relationships, transform spiritual realities, build confidence in another person, or transform someone’s mood. But at the same time, those very same words can be used to destroy.
Had Rachel Imeinu spoken up to reveal Leah’s true identity to Yaakov, Rachel would have completely destroyed Leah’s sense of self-worth. Leah would have been totally humiliated, and who knows if she would have been able to continue on with her life’s task of raising 7 out of the 12 tribes of the Jewish nation.
In honor of the yahrtzeit of Rachel Imeinu this Shabbos, let’s try to use our power of silence to avoid hurting other people.
Sources:  Rashi on Bereishis 29:25 and Bava Basra 123a;  Yirmiyahu 31:14 and Eicha Pesichta 24
Use your power of silence to avoid hurting another person.
- Hold yourself back from saying a sarcastic or mocking remark that comes to your mind.
- Hold yourself back from saying lashon hara – or even something that you think MIGHT be lashon hara.
- Hold yourself back from interrupting someone while they’re talking.
- If you’re in a bad mood, hold yourself back from complaining so that you don’t spread your bad mood to other people.
- If someone hurts you, hold yourself back from responding in an angry voice.