Silence is Golden


Some people are quiet by nature and more introverted while others are more rowdy and extroverted. Does Judaism teach that one of these two personalities is better?



  1. Not really. People are born with a variety of character traits and dispositions, and are also nurtured in varying ways by their families, friends and environment. But everyone has the freedom to choose between good and bad, between right and wrong. That is what really matters.

    Having said that, there’s a time for silence and a time for speech. It all depends on the circumstances.

    In the famous text named “Ethics of our Fathers” we are taught the importance of both silence and speech. One teaching states that “silence is a fence for (promotes) wisdom” (3:13). A person who is quiet and attentive to what others say and do will have an opportunity to learn new things. In addition, thoughtful silence will help a person avoid speaking slander and gossip, as well as not saying something he will later regret. As Mark Twain said, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

    On the other hand, speaking is essential for productive communication in our everyday lives. A person who thinks before he speaks will likely speak in an intelligent, productive and “kosher” manner. As we are also taught in Ethics of our Fathers, “One who is very shy will not learn” (2:6). If a person doesn’t understand something, how will he learn and understand it unless he speaks up and asks for clarification?

    Therefore, being on the quiet side is definitely a positive trait – especially if it’s your nature – as long as you are not afraid to speak up when necessary.

    Yet the rabbis of Israel, the sages of the Talmud, valued silence as a vital factor in life. Raban Gamliel stated: “All of my life I was privileged to be in the company of the wise men of Torah and I learned from them that nothing is more valuable to productive living than silence.” The Talmud stated that a good word is worth one shekel but that silence itself is worth two shekels. This indicates that a well-timed silence can be more valuable and effective in certain situations. Someone recently told me that his mother jokes that if one word is worth one shekel, then two words should be two shekels. And so on. But I’m sure that you get the point of the wisdom of the teaching of our great Torah sages.

    Best wishes from the Team