Rebecca Masinter

Parshas Acharei Mos - Choosing When to Speak

Every one of us has experienced that person who tells us the right words, but AT THE WRONG TIME! (We've also all been that person who picks the wrong time for communication.) Hopefully, we also know from experience how powerful the right words are when they're said at the right time. Parshas Acharei Mos begins with a communication from Hashem linked to the specific time it was said. “And Hashem spoke to Moshe after the death of Aharon’s two sons, when they approached before Hashem and they died.” The laws regarding Kohanim weren't taught at a random time, but specifically right after the death of Nadav and Avihu. This message had to be given at this point in time.

There are right times and wrong times to try and instruct people. Fascinatingly, one of the sins Chazal link to Nadav and Avihu was their inability to wait for life to unfold in the right time.  Chazal say they used to impatiently say to each other, “When will these old men, (Moshe and Aharon), die so we can be the leaders of the nation?”  While that time would have eventually arrived, they were unable to appreciate that there are wrong times and right times, and we need to wait until the time is right. (I don't think it's coincidental that the specific mitzvah commanded here, adjacent to the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, is one of timing, “v’al yavo b’chol eis el hakodesh”, “he should not come at all times into the Sanctuary,” rather, there is a specific time on the specific day of Yom Kippur when it is the appropriate time to enter the Holy of Holies.

What can we learn from this today?  Timing matters.  Very often, we want to tell our child something important and we feel the urge to say it immediately because we want the relief of unloading our pent up emotions.  But that is often not the right time to speak.  Rather, we need to have patience and wait for the time to be right for this communication and then when we do it at the right time for our child, they can listen and learn in the best way.

When is the right time to communicate something important?  Almost always, the best time to teach our children is when they feel connected to us with closeness and love.  When we tap into our loving relationship with our children, they are most receptive to listening to us.  I don’t know if this is the Torah’s message here, but I will note that the context of this Parshah is of course the Yom Kippur service, the day that we are closest to Hashem. Perhaps this too is an aspect of wisely choosing times to communicate... 

This Parshah reminds us that it isn't only what we say that counts, but even more important, when we say it.