Talmud Tips

For the week ending 18 August 2018 / 7 Elul 5778

Zevachim 114 - 120

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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Golden Silence and Golden Speech

“And likewise regarding Shlomo the verse states: “A time to be silent and a time to speak” — i.e., at times a person is silent and receives reward for his silence; at times a person speaks and receives reward for his speaking.

In our sugya it is explained that an example of being silent and receiving reward for this silence is Aharon’s silent acceptance that it was G-d’s will that his sons Nadav and Avihu should die. On the other end of the spectrum, Rashi on Kohelet (3:4) — "A time to speak and a time to be silent" — cites three examples of rewarded speech: “Az yashir” (Shemot ch. 15) that was sung at the splitting of the sea, the song of the Prophetess Devorah (Sefer Shoftim ch. 5) after Israel’s victory over the Canaanites, and the call of the Prophet Hoshea (14:3) for the Jewish People to do teshuva and to "take words with you" — words of supplication and prayer.

Another time when it is certainly a time to speak is when learning Torah. Although the mishna in Avot teaches: Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel would say, “All my life I have been raised among the Sages, and I have found nothing better for the body than silence.” The Torah commentaries explain that the silence praised here refers to minimal speech about physical matters. Regarding learning Torah and mitzvah fulfillment, however, it is praiseworthy to not be silent, but to use the power of speech to the highest degree.

  • Zevachim 115b

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