He (God) said, "Please hear my words..." (Num. 12:6)

Miriam and Aharon spoke lashon hara, derogatory speech, against Moshe. Although they had not acted with malice, in fact speaking more out of concern for Moshe's welfare, God's anger flared up and He rebuked them. However, when God addressed them He spoke in a very soft tone, starting: "Please hear My words..." The Sifsei Chachamim explains that even though God was angry at Miriam and Aharon, He still spoke to them in a soft tone, for if He would have spoken to them in a harsh and angry tone, His words would not have been heeded.

When a person is spoken to harshly he feels under attack. His pride is at stake and he therefore does not fully hear what is being said. If God was careful in how He spoke to Miriam and Aharon who were prophets, then how much more so should we speak carefully to our spouses, colleagues or acquaintances. Even when one must confront an enemy, or admonish someone for a terrible misdeed, one should speak gently, for gentle words have a greater effect than words that are shouted and screamed. King Solomon teaches "A soft answer turns away wrath." (1) While one provocative remark can kindle anger, even the most intense fury can be soothed by a gentle word. Always remember: the louder the word the quieter it is heard.

NOTES

1. Mishlei 15:1.