Sarah had a bubbly personality and loved to share exciting life moments with others. If Sarah heard good news even about a casual acquaintance, she would spread the word to others.
“Did you hear that Mrs. Nagle had her third boy last night?” Sarah announced to Shoshanah. “I’m so happy for her.”
“That’s great news to start the day,” Shoshanah said. “How many children does she have now, bli ayin hara?”
“I’m not sure exactly, but it seems like she’s had one every year,” Sarah said.
Sarah was sincerely happy for her neighbor but neglected to take into consideration that Mrs. Sher was listening to the conversation and was impacted negatively by all the joy — since she was already married for 7 years and had not as yet been granted a child.
Good news is not always good for everyone. What’s a simchah for one can be depressing to another. As soon as Sarah saw the look on Mrs. Sher’s face, she turned red and became silent.
Social interaction is a delicate art. Some people are always upbeat and happy, which is appropriate in most situations but may be unsuitable in the presence of someone who is facing a serious life challenge. Showing interest in another’s life is usually good, but being “nosy” can cross the lines of propriety and even be offensive. To add to the difficulty of avoiding a poor choice of words is the fact that people have varying levels of sensitivity and different feelings about what they consider “personal.” Before speaking, one should consider the variables and try to only say things that are suitable, appropriate and inoffensive to the people in the vicinity. The first step to avoid hurting another with one’s speech is to decide whether to speak at all.
One More Second: Another Thought for the Day
Although we witness the heroic efforts of doctors and sometimes receive blessings from the greatest of the generation, our challenge is to remember what Hashem Himself tells us in the Torah: “I am Hashem your Doctor.” Our challenge is to sincerely tell Him when we pray, that we know it is He Who holds the cure. (Rabbi Y.Y. Rubinstein, The Little Book for Big Worries: Dealing With Serious Illness, p. 75)
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement.