Vayera 5771 – Sound of Silence

“G-d remembered Avraham and He sent Lot out of the upheaval” (Bereshis 19:29)

Rashi asks a question on this verse, “what is the connection between the remembering of Avraham and the saving of Lot?” In the beginning of last week’s parsha, Avraham traveled with his wife, Sara, and his nephew, Lot, to Egypt. Avraham was scared the Egyptians would kill him if they knew Sara was his wife, so Avraham made a plan with his wife. She would say Avraham was her brother. Since Lot was with them, he heard the entire plan, but when they approached Pharoah, he remained silent. He did not tell Pharoah that he was being tricked. Lot’s reward for this moment of remaining silent is he was saved from the destruction of the city of Sodom!

It states in Pirkei Avos (1:17), “Shimon his [Gamliel’s] son states, all my days I grew up among the wise Sages and I found nothing better for one’s body than silence.” The commentators point out that Shimon ben Gamliel uses a very interesting word in this mishna; he states “nothing is better for one’s BODY.” Why does he use the word BODY, which signifies our physical existence, instead of using the word SOUL, which signifies our spiritual existence? The answer is silence certainly helps our soul, but it even helps our physical existence! If we want to live longer, we need to learn the golden rule of remaining silent.

Rav Shloma Margolis in his sefer, Darchei HaShelamus, points out that Lot had numerous good character traits he learned from Avraham. He was an expert at welcoming guests. Also, although he lived in Sodom, he still opposed their immoral acts. These were certainly great acts on his part, but look at what the Torah states is the reason he was saved: it was because he guarded his tongue. Remaining silent is one of the greatest acts a person can do for himself. One possible reason for this is because when a person is silent, he avoids transgressing many of the worst sins. A silent person cannot lie. Nor can he speak Lashon Hara or Rechilus. Nor can he embarrass another person with words. Nor can he swear falsely. Many of our commandments have to do with speech and when one remains silent, he avoids transgressing them.

Also, when a person remains silent, he is able to hear things which he normally does not. How often does one hear birds chirping? Or the soft wind rustling the leaves of autumn? When one is constantly noisy, he misses hearing many of the noises of nature that G-d created (which can help a person connect to G-d). Another thing a person can hear when remaining silent is the another person talking to him. People are constantly talking, but do they actually listen to what the other person is saying? Many times, it seems like they are not. The reason is because while one person is talking, the other person is not silent. People are constantly interrupting each other so they can state their opinions on certain issues, but if they remained silent, they would be able to hear the other person’s opinion first. By remaining silent, one can respond much more wisely.

The best thing for a person is to try to remain silent when possible. Of course, people do need to speak (many mitzvos involve our speech like Torah learning and prayers), but when possible, we should practice keeping our mouths closed. Remember, Lot was saved only because he remained silent. It is a great thing to do.

Good Shabbos!
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