Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Strong and Silent

My Zeidy, a"h, was a quiet man. "He only speaks on alternate Tuesdays," the family joked. When he and his siblings sat together on a Shabbos afternoon, their idea of a conversation was emitting occasional "Mm-hm?"s. It was a hereditary trait. 

For my grandfather, stupid statements were particularly painful, an ax hacking through his peace of mind. He would visibly wince, saying sorrowfully (on alternate Tuesdays) "Mehtracht nisht far mehredt." They don't think before they talk.

Rabbi Yisroel Reisman has told this story more than once—I may not be telling it over correctly, but I'm aiming for the general gist. A Rav was known for remaining mute for twenty minutes before responding to a query. At some point he was asked why. After twenty minutes, he replied that he had to consider every possible ramification of what he uttered. 

As a recovering motor-mouth (I still have a long way to go), I am struggling to achieve my Zeidy's still tongue. He was genetically inclined to silence, a true gift, I realize now. Incapable of being goaded, even if he was being maligned, he knew quiet is the only way to maintain the dignified strength of self. 

Sort of like James McCay (played by Gregory Peck) in The Big Country (1958). He had nothing to prove to anyone but himself. 
Frank Bruni, one of my favorite Opinion writers, eloquently phrases the sentiment of contemplation before expression in "For 2014, Tweet Less, Read More." The article is not long; please read it in its entirety. It deserves to be slowly savored, like a succulent piece of cheesecake.     


Daniel Saunders said...

There's a wonderful quote from the Kotzker Rebbe, who also greatly valued silence: A human being is not a goat with a bell around its neck to announce its every move.

Princess Lea said...

That. Is. PERFECT. I'm going to stitch it onto a pillow!