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Kislev 27

All my days I grew up among the wise, and I have not found what is good for the body other than silence (Ethics of the Fathers1:17).

In his famous instructions on the "golden mean of virtue," Maimonides states that a person should avoid either extreme of any character trait.

If we were to place unbridled talk at one extreme and total silence at the other, the mean of virtue would not be at the midpoint between the two, but much closer to silence. While sometimes we refrain from saying something we should have said, more often do we say something we should not have said.

We can choose one of two paths of conversation: We either keep quiet unless we are certain that we should speak, or we assume that we should speak unless we are certain that we should hold our peace. Since the mean of virtue is closer to silence, the first option is preferable.

People who were forbidden to talk for medical reasons and therefore had to communicate by writing have told me that they realized how much of an average person's conversation is non-essential. Unfortunately, non-essential talk is likely to contain much that is not simply "neutral," but actually destructive, such as lies, gossip, insults,and boasting.

Today I shall...

try to measure my words very carefully. If there is no real need for saying something, I should reflect on why I wish to say it.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

Published: May 21, 2009

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