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Selective Silence: a User’s Guide
By   Shlomo Maital 


 
  In the Jewish Talmud (Ethics of Our Fathers), Rabbi Shimon ben Shatach says, “I have lived all my days among the wise, and found nothing better than silence.”
   Silence?   Nothing better?
   Rabbi ben Shatach spent his days in study with his colleagues.  Talmud study involved dialogue, conversation, debate, argument. 
    Silence?
    It has taken me many years to figure out what he meant.  Here is what I think.
    Selective silence.  Speech, when it is warm, embracing, informative, loving, is of course vital.  There is nothing better than such speech.  The Talmud is built on it.
    But words that are hateful, hurtful, wounding, insulting, humiliating?  Such speech is better transformed into silence.
     But how?
     Here is my modest suggestion.  I affirm that I have used this method and it works.  I wish I had understood it years and years ago. 
      You are about to say angry hurtful words.  Your brain has formulated them.  They exist, those words, they live, they burn in your frontal cortex. 
       Stop.  Listen to yourself SILENTLY say them.  Then stop.  Don’t say them out loud.  Only to yourself. 
        I can think of many occasions, when, had I used selective silence, my life and those around me would have been a whole lot better.
     I’ll bet you can too, dear reader. 
Is this what Rabbi Shimon ben Shatach meant, when he said he found nothing better than silence?  Selective silence?   Silencing hurtful words? 

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Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
January 2019
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