Please Learn in the Merit of:

Please learn for the merit of a complete recovery for the following individuals:

Ya'akov Don ben Esther Ahuvah Sharona
Avraham Yishayahu ben Aviva
Perel Leah bas Sima

Please learn in the merit/memory of Eyal ben Uriel, Gil-Ad Michael ben Ophir, Ya'akov Naftali ben Avraham, and Alter Aryeh Leib Reuven ben Sima

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon י"ח כּסלו - Kislev 18 - Seventy-Eighth Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Our Sages of Blessed Memory have said [in Pirkei Avos (Chapter 1; Mishna 17): “[Shimon the son of Rabban Gamliel said], 'All of my days, I have grown in the midst of the Sages, and I have found nothing better for the body than silence.'”[1] [The] explanation [of this teaching is as follows]: I have grown [while] in the midst of the Sages, and I have gathered together their desired and holy attributes, [from among all of these beneficial attributes, the trait of] silence was [found to be] the greatest attribute. Alternatively, [the following explanation can be offered]: These [individuals] were wise scholars, and their speech definitely [did not include], Heaven Forbid, vain words. Notwithstanding, [even with respect to these sages], I have seen and have found that the best thing for the body, with the exception of Torah, is actually [the quality of] silence. [In reference to the above teaching from Pirkei Avos], when it stated “for the body”, the explanation [is], that the person, even if he were wise and complete in his soul, as were the friends of Rabbi Shimon, nevertheless, due to the aspect of the physical that enclothes the soul, it is virtually impossible that the person’s words will be limited to the proper degree, therefore, the [attribute of] silence is better [than speaking]. If such [a teaching applies to] the generation of Rabbi Shimon, [when the people] would only accustom their tongues to speak words of wisdom [from the Torah], and even if he wouldn’t guard his mouth so much, he would still not deviate from his path [of Torah], Heaven Forbid, it was still said [in reference to them] that silence is preferable [to their speech. As this teaching applied to the generation of Rabbi Shimon], what will [we], the moss on the wall[2], do, whose thoughts and speech [has been] of nothingness and emptiness since our childhood, unless we muzzle our mouths with the bridle of silence with all of our ability? [For, if we do not] silence ourselves, the tongue will do [what it wishes], which it has been accustomed to do from [the person’s] youth. [Due to this vain speech], the [individual’s] loss [will] will be multiple times greater than the reward.

[1] The entire Mishna states as follows:

“Shimon [the son of Rabban Gamliel], says: ‘All of my days I have grown in the midst of the Sages and I have found nothing better for the body than silence, and the expounding of Torah [teachings] is not the main thing, rather, the action [is the main thing]. All those who increase words bring sin.”

This entire Mishna discourages excess speech, as well as speaking when it potentially leads to negative results.

The Kihati, quoting Midrash Shmuel, explains this Mishna as follows:

For matters relating to the needs of the body, silence in the best attribute, however, in relation to the soul, certain speech, such as Torah leaning and Tefillah (prayer), is beneficial. If people are transgressing a certain part of the Torah or are lax in their performance of the mitzvos, he should not spend too much time exhorting others to repent and strengthen their practice of the mitzvos in a situation where such exhortation is at the expense of setting an example for the people by taking an action to do that which is necessary in order to fix the breach in the ways of the Torah. All those who speak at length, informing people of their transgressions without taking actions to encourage the cessation of these transgressions, can lead to an increase in sin, for he makes the transgressors into those who intentionally transgress the Torah, and, as a result, can increase the spiritual prosecution directed against the Jewish People.

According to the Bartenura, if one expounds the Torah and does not perform the mitzvos, it is better for him to be silent and not expound the Torah.

Similarly, we learn later in Pirkei Avos (Chapter 3; Mishna 17) that one whose performance of Torah is negligible and who learns a significant amount of Torah, is comparable to a tree with many leaves and few roots, if the wind comes, it knocks that tree over. However, one who performs the mitzvos, much or all of his Torah learning is directed to providing him the knowledge to perform the mitzvos, he is comparable to a tree which has many roots and few leaves, that tree being able to stand up to all of the winds of the world.

[2] The Sages are compared to “the cedars of Lebanon”, while we are compared to “the moss on the wall”, to exemplify the great difference in the spiritual stature between the rabbis of the early generations, such as the scholars quoted in the Mishna and Gemara, and the people of our generation.

No comments: