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Parshas Vayeitzay - FYI or TMI                            7 Kislev 5780

12/05/19 13:08:06


Hey! You want to hear something? Why is it that we are tempted to hear newsy, kind of private or juicy things from others? Is it that we are just so nosy and want to hear all the gossip around town about everyone? Or maybe we just like to hear things that are informative, assuring a well-rounded view of the world. Information can be viewed as knowledge, and we all know that knowledge is a powerful tool. Knowledge can be used for good and… sometimes, as the cliché goes, we all know that a little knowledge can be dangerous. The reality is ‘information’ is a tool like any other and it depends upon who, where, when and why it is used.

Generally speaking, FYI and TMI are viewed as opposites. We enjoy hearing ‘FYI’, while ‘TMI’ causes us to cringe a bit, feeling unsure if we really want to hear all that. I remember the first time I heard the expression ‘TMI’. It happened to me. One Shabbos during the meal, I was entertaining our guests and must have gotten carried away. My wife abruptly interrupted, calling out “O.K., too much information!” After that, I don’t think I spoke again, opening my mouth only to insert a fork or a spoon. On the other hand, we are consistently fascinated with an ‘FYI’ spoken by a brilliant mind who shares a great amount of knowledge or information with others. Sometimes not enough is transmitted, while at other times it’s total overload! But taking a closer look, FYI can have different meanings and different kinds of messages. For example, a person will say ‘for your information’ in a condescending tone, implying that this is something you should know because you are oblivious to the forthcoming information. Other times, if you walk up to an information desk, they are pleasant and willing share information which you may have been able to research on your own. Nevertheless, they are typically calm and courteous when answering your questions. The Torah is full of information, but it is also a guide for life, helping us to navigate how to use the information it presents.

In this week’s Parsha Vayeitzay we read the story of Yaakov working for Rochel, initially for seven years so that he could marry her. Rochel’s father Lavan, however, has another plan in mind, switching Rochel for Leah, causing Yaakov to marry Leah instead. At this point Yaakov is devastated, willing to work another seven years more for Rochel. The Torah describes the sly tactics of Lavan, stating in 29:23: "ויהי בערב ויקח את לאה בתו ויבא אתה אליו ויבא אליה" : “In the evening, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to [Jacob] who consummated the marriage with her.”

*Rav Eliyahu KiTov in his Sefer HaParshiyot writes that the sages explained during the seven years that Yaakov worked for Rochel, he [Yaakov] sent gifts to be given to Rochel, but her father Lavan gave them to his other daughter, Leah. Despite the fact that Rochel knew her father gave away the gifts which were intended for her but were given to her sister, Rochel remained silent. In Pirkei Avos Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel taught: “Myy entire life I grew up and was raised amongst the sages, and the only, the most correct thing I found for my body was silence. Rochel was steadfast in this principle, remaining silent despite the urge to cry foul. As a result her children, too, learned to remain silent. When Rochel saw her sister Leah receive gifts intended for her, she was silent. So too, Rochel’s son, Binyamin, was quiet. The ‘Ephod’ - the breastplate of the Kohein Gadol - had twelve gemstones. The twelve jewels in the breastplate were each, according to the Torah description, to be made from specific minerals, none of them the same as another, and each of them representative of a specific tribe whose name was to be inscribed on the stone. According to a rabbinic tradition, the names of the twelve tribes were engraved upon the stones with what is called in Hebrew: שמיר = shamir, which, according to Rashi, was a small, rare creature which could cut through the toughest surfaces. According to Rabbi David Kimhi and Rabbi Jonah ben Yanah, this Shamir was a stone stronger than iron. The stone that represented Binyamin was Jasper, in Hebrew . ישפהBinyamin knew of his brothers’ selling Yosef , but he remained silent. This is hinted to in his stone: by separating the word in the middle ,we get two words: ‘יש פה ‘: ‘he has a mouth, but he was silent’. Later on, in Shmuel Aleph 10:16, Shaul, a direct descendant of Binyamin, did not tell his uncle what Shmuel had said concerning the kingship. In Megilas Esther 2:20 Esther remains silent. She does not reveal her nation; she keeps quiet. The Midrash Tanchuma Parshas Vayeitzay 6 declares: Rebbi Yehuda says: The act of being silent is so great, that in the merit of Rochel being silent she merited to have a ‘double tribe’ - the two tribes of Ephraim and Menashe. Why was she silent? Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai explains Rochel’s mindset. If I [Rochel] tell Yaakov that his gifts were given to Leah instead of to me, my father will become incensed; he will never allow me to marry him, promoting a greater distance between Yaakov,the great Tzadik, and me. Hashem said to her, “Because you were silent, I, Hashem will remember you at the right time.”

Rochel knew when it was important to give information (namely the signs that Yaakov gave her), to her sister Leah to avoid embarrassment. She gave information to her sister Leah that would be considered appropriate for her to know:, ‘for your information’ since you are going to need this.’ On the flip side, when it came to providing information about the misdirecting of Yaakov’s gifts by her father, Rochel believed that too much information would be damaging to her and her situation.

From our Parsha reading we clearly see an example of FYI when there is a clear purpose for sharing with someone else information that would otherwise remain private. We also see a clear example of TMI being withheld and demonstrated by the same person [in this case Rochel] because it would have caused her harm in the long run.

Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it is that specific data which answers the question of "what an entity is", therefore defining both its essence and the nature of its characteristics. Therefore, before sharing any information (despite how tempting it might be), consideration should be given and a cost/benefit analysis should be drawn. Once again, let us take a lesson from one of our foremothers on how and when we should or should not share information, no matter how much we want to give it over. Always keep in mind that Shtika/silence is the golden rule unless the information is clearly appropriate and needed for the other person to know.


Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*Avraham Eliyahu Mokotow (22 March 1912 – 7 February 1976), better known as Eliyahu Kitov, was a Haredi rabbi, educator, and community activist. One of his works - Sefer HaParshiyot 1961–76 – is a rich, comprehensive set on the weekly Torah portions. Although it is mainly based on Midrash and Talmud, early Biblical commentaries, and Chassidic texts, the imprint of the author is noticeable, and many of his own insights are blended into the text.

Sat, August 8 2020 18 Av 5780