For the week ending 16 June 2007 / 30 Sivan 5767

Speech and Silence

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: As a public speaker in my community I am often called upon to deliver lectures in synagogues and schools for the purpose of improving religious observance. It is very frustrating to see how little effect these talks have, and I often consider retiring from such activity. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: The Chafetz Chaim was once approached with a similar question by a Jew who spoke for a long time to a packed synagogue but failed to see how even one Jew had improved as a result. This is what the sage answered:

"One never knows when his words will have an impact. The Torah commands us to 'place these things on your heart' in the hope that in time they will eventually be absorbed into your heart."

He then added another benefit of speaking to an unresponsive audience for a very long time:

"I'm surprised at you," replied the Chafetz Chaim. "Don't you know what the Vilna Gaon writes from a Midrashic source about silence? He says that for every second which a person holds his silence he merits the Hidden Light which is beyond the comprehension of even the angels. All this for just one second of silence! Now imagine how great is the reward for an entire audience being silent for two whole hours! What more do you want?"

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