27 Apr EMOR- THE PRECIOUS VALUE OF SILENCE
In the first chapter of Pirkeh Avot, we read the following teaching of Shimon, the son of Rabban Gamliel:
“My whole life I grew up among sages, and I found nothing better for the body than silence.”
The value of silence is mentioned already in several pesukim. King Shlomo teaches in Kohelet, – “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” And he says in Mishleh, – “One who guards his mouth and tongue guards his soul from trouble.”
Already King Shlomo’s father, King David, taught us in Tehillim, – “Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.”
We might wonder, then, what does Shimon add in this Mishnah that we don’t already know from the pesukim? Once we’ve already been warned of the dangers of improper speech, what is Shimon teaching us?
The answer is that this Mishnah adds a whole new dimension to the value of silence. It teaches that silence does not only help protect us from inappropriate or harmful speech. Rather, silence is inherently beneficial.
The pesukim urge us to be careful to avoid saying the wrong thing. The Mishnah tells us that silence is in itself valuable. And precious.
Why is silence so valuable?
Firstly, we have much to gain from being alone with our thoughts and feelings, silently reflecting and thinking about our day, about our lives, about the things that concern us. We can only benefit from taking time out from talking, texting, reading, watching and surfing to think. Periods of silent reflection help us understand ourselves better and understand our world better, so we can make better decisions.
Instead of constantly checking our phones and communicating, we need some “silent” time, when we are alone with our thoughts.
But there is also another reason why silence is so valuable.
The Gemara in Masechet Hulin makes the following, vitally important, statement: “The world is sustained only for one who restrains himself during a fight.”
One of the most powerful tools we have is the ability to keep silent during a fight, when we feel hurt, insulted, offended and angered. It is how we “sustain” our “world.” When we respond and fight back, we can destroy our “world.” It only makes the other person more upset and more insistent on continuing the argument. By remaining silent, we keep our world intact. And nothing is more valuable than that. Silence brings peace and calm, and also brings us merit through which we sustain the entire world.
Silence is a precious asset that we should all be making more use of. It helps us not only stay out of trouble, but also to understand ourselves better so we can be more successful, and to build for ourselves a “world” of peace and joy with the people around us.