Using the Accurate Words to Make your Goals Effective
Rabbi Daniela Szuster
After Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers, they brought their father Jacob to Egypt. Joseph proposed that they all live together in Egypt because it was difficult to live in Eretz Canaan because of the famine.
When all the family arrived, Joseph talked to them, and then he informed Pharaoh that they had arrived.
It is interesting to highlight the different narrative Joseph used to address his family and the words he used to talk with Pharaoh.
In the following table you can appreciate the different speeches he said to his family and Pharaoh regarding the coming of their family to live in Egypt:
|Joseph said to his family||Joseph said to Pharaoh|
|“Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell the news to Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. The men are shepherds; they have always been breeders of livestock.” (Bereshit 46:31-32)||“Then Joseph came and reported to Pharaoh, saying, “My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that is theirs, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in the region of Goshen.” (Bereshit 47:1)|
What differences do you find here between their speeches? Why do you think we have these differences?
Abarbanel points out that Joseph did not say “come to me” to Pharaoh. He was afraid that Pharaoh thought that his family wants the king’s treasures. He wanted to stress that his family were wealthy people and that they brought all their goods with them. They did not need money from Pharaoh. Besides this, Joseph did not mention to Pharaoh that they were shepherds because it was considered an abhorrent job for the Egyptians. Instead, he said that they brought all their wealth.
After that, Joseph gave his family advice about how to talk with Pharaoh. Now we will compare Joseph’s recommendations to his brothers and what they said to Pharaoh.
|Joseph advised their family what to say to Pharaoh||Joseph’s family said to Pharaoh|
|“So, when Pharaoh summons you and asks, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall answer, ‘Your servants have been breeders of livestock from the start until now, both we and our fathers’—so that you may stay in the region of Goshen. For all shepherds are abhorrent to Egyptians.” (Bereshit 46:33-34)||“Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” They answered Pharaoh, “We your servants are shepherds, as were also our fathers. We have come,” they told Pharaoh, “to sojourn in this land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, the famine being severe in the land of Canaan. Pray, then, let your servants stay in the region of Goshen.” (Bereshit 47:3-4)|
What differences do you find here between their speeches? Why didn’t Joseph’s family follow Joseph’s recommendations?
We can affirm that Joseph’s family had very low esteem and they could not talk as Joseph wanted. Joseph had trained them, but they were not able to follow him. Maybe they should have talked with Pharaoh as Joseph recommended to them. It was a good marketing strategy. However, they were not in the mood to do that. They felt very frustrated and disappointed. They preferred to be sincere and to ask for help as people in need usually do. Joseph and his family saw the world from different points of view, being in different situations.
We see here two different strategies: Joseph’s family’s strategy was to get compassion from Pharaoh. Joseph wanted them to show that they were wealthy and interesting-attractive people for the king.
We can learn from Parashat Vayigash that you can say the same thing in different ways. It is important to think what impact you want your words to have on others. It is not a requirement to state all the details, just the important things for your goal.
We also learn about the importance of being sincere with ourselves and with other people. Joseph’s brothers did not want to hide their difficult situation. They needed help, and they asked for that. They were not wealthy people as they were in the past, and they expressed that without shame.
It takes time to change an idea that we have about ourselves.If someone has low self-esteem, it is not so easy to change his or her mind in a couple of minutes. They should have worked among themselves on that for more time before going to talk with Pharaoh.
Besides this, it is difficult to follow advice if you do not trust the person that is giving you the advice. Joseph was their brother, but they did not have a good relationship with him. And now they had to obey him because he was Pharaoh’s right-hand man, but they did not trust him. For this reason, they said to Pharaoh what they thought it was best to say.
Thus, following this week’s parashah, it is important to have in mind that we should be careful with the words we use depending on our audience and our goals.