In Parshat Behar (25:30) we find the phenomenon of Keri Uketiv, a word that is written one way and read a different way. The verse in English reads:
|But if it is not redeemed by the end of a complete year, then that house which is in the city that has a wall, shall remain permanently [the property] of the one who purchased it throughout his generations. It will not leave [his possession] in the Jubilee.||לוְאִם לֹא יִגָּאֵל עַד מְלֹאת לוֹ שָׁנָה תְמִימָה וְקָם הַבַּיִת אֲשֶׁר בָּעִיר אֲשֶׁר לוֹ (כתיב אשר לא)חֹמָה לַצְּמִיתֻת לַקֹּנֶה אֹתוֹ לְדֹרֹתָיו לֹא יֵצֵא בַּיֹּבֵל:|
The word Lo in the phrase Asher Lo Choma is written with the letter Aleph. Therefore according to the text it means “A city that is not walled.” However the tradition is that the word is read as if it was spelled with a vav instead of an Aleph and therefore actually means “a city with a wall.” The Talmud in Arachin (32a) explains that the Keri Uktiv phenomenon here teaches us that the determination as to whether a city is considered walled or unwalled depends on its status at the time of Joshua’s conquering of the
Our pasuk teaches us that if the city was walled at the time of Joshua it is to
be considered walled for this law, even if it currently has no wall surrounding
it. Land of Israel
Keri Uktiv is a phenomenon that occurs with some frequency in the Prophets, but is rare to find in the Chumash
Another unique aspect to this Keri Uketiv is that the two words are homonyms, they are pronounced exactly the same: “Lo”. And yet they mean completely opposite things. The Halacha is that the person who is reading the Torah should have in mind “Lo” with a Vav even though he reads “Lo” with an aleph.
Perhaps there is an additional lesson we can learn from this unique Keri Uketiv. We can say the exact same words and they can mean completely different things depending on our tone and the circumstances. For example if I tell someone while playing softball “nice job!” it means one thing if the person just made a great play while something else completely if he just dropped the ball.
We must be careful not only with what we say, but how we say it and how the words will be perceived and taken by the listener.