garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn't
stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh?... And a
little bit o' wine. An' a little bit o' sugar, and that's my trick.” It is an iconic scene that no doubt inspired many people to learn how to cook meat sauce.
A verse from Psalms reads (84:12) “For the Lord God is a sun and shield/כִּי שֶׁמֶשׁ וּמָגֵן יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים.” The Noam Elimelekh explains that this verse comes to teach us that the Sun is very strong. And in order to see it and receive its light, we need a shield. This is why we have sunglasses, or blinds on our windows. Indeed, we need shade in order to receive appropriate amounts of light. And we have to figure out how to do this in our daily lives. The Noam Elimelekh challenges us, as people who aspire to influence the world around us. He says it is our role to find a way to sweeten what might be too strong and or too savory. Here, he is not referring to meat sauce.
And this is the meaning of the opening verse of our Parsha, Parshat Vayigash, “Then Judah stepped up to him and said, ‘O my lord, let your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are like Pharaoh himself/וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה וַיֹּאמֶר בִּי אֲדֹנִי, יְדַבֶּר-נָא עַבְדְּךָ דָבָר בְּאָזְנֵי אֲדֹנִי, וְאַל-יִחַר אַפְּךָ בְּעַבְדֶּךָ כִּי כָמוֹךָ כְּפַרְעֹה.” It should not be read, “O my lord/ בִּי אֲדֹנִי/Bi Adoni”, rather, “God is in me/בי אדני/Bi Adonai.” When we let God in, it sweetens us, and thus we are not received with anger. That is Judah’s great accomplishment in this verse. He understands that kindness will soften Joseph and prevent anger from coming out.
We often find ourselves living in a contentious world. Our friends and family are frequently the ones with whom we have the strongest disagreements. This week, let us strive to open our mouths with kindness. Even when we know we are right, and we represent good, too much good can feel overpowering and aggressive. I encourage you to add some sugar to your words. It is not just the trick to great sauce, it's the trick to great relationships.