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 I have often written in the past about the inestimable value of the virtue of silence. The Talmud in its eternal wisdom values silence as being twice the worth of even the wisest of speech. Now I realize that I myself am violating this sublime rule by writing, which is a form of speech. But then I feel that the subject is worthy of note and reinforcement and more than necessary in our current society.

We are besieged by chatter on all sides of our existence. Media bombardment is no longer restricted to radio or television or newsprint, all of which can be easily ignored by not listening or tuning in or reading, but it now has invaded our computers. We are constantly besieged by text, emails and advertisements that we did not particularly solicit nor find to be of any real lasting value.
And the noise feeds on itself so that we are not allowed even a few moments of silence and contemplation during our weekday existence. I think that our society more than any other in the past can truly appreciate the gift of the Sabbath and the freedom it gives us from incessant badgering and commotion, most of which is uninvited and unnecessary.
Silence leads to serenity and happiness and a feeling of well-being. Noise on the other hand leads to anxiety, tension and a general feeling of sadness and even depression. One should treasure the moments of silence and serenity that we are granted for they can be put to good use and can help us achieve periods of contentment and spiritual accomplishment.
We are still recovering here in Israel from the discordant noise and evil speech engendered by the recent election campaign. The nature of election campaigns in democracies brings forth the worst of characteristics of speech and noise. Hyperbolic statements, unfounded accusations, dire predictions and egotistical boasting are the unfortunate characteristics of election campaigning. Again, the rabbis of the Talmud warned us that even the wisest of men should be careful as to what they say.
But during election campaigns, I have noticed that even people considered to be wise and cautious are driven to make statements that are false, nonsensical and oftentimes foolish. And these statements always come back to haunt the person that uttered them in the heat of partisanship during the campaign.
In the good old days, much of what was said during the election campaign was forgotten once the election was over and the candidates were not really held to their words. However, in our time when every word is immediately transmitted on social media and preserved for all times by the technology that we now possess, foolish statements have a very long shelf life and are always capable of being refreshed and uttered once more. This is naturally disheartening not only to the one who made the statement but to society generally. Therefore, silence in our time is even more golden than it ever was in the past.
There were statements made in the last election campaign by otherwise wise men and even by Torah scholars that I found to have been so embarrassing and shameful that I shall not even quote them in this essay. I realized that they were all stated in the heat of battle and in the struggle for their respective political parties to survive in a very polarized and difficult election. But I am convinced that those statements harmed the political parties they were ostensibly supposed to have aided by those pronouncements.
I remember a time when ridicule was also somehow considered to be a mark of positive publicity for those being ridiculed. I do not think that that is the case any longer. And, unfortunately, much of the campaigning, sloganeering and statements made by candidates in the last election boarded on the ridiculous, though no one in the audience was laughing. It could be that in our time silence is not an effective way of running for office and winning an election.
But eventually in life there are things more important than winning an election. Elections come and go but value systems and positive political and governmental traits remain and are the solid foundation upon which a nation is built. So, regarding speech, like in so many other areas in life, less is more. The one who can remain silent and choose words carefully and with restraint is eventually deemed to be the wise person.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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