Torah Podcast Transcript
The Torah Podcast 017 – How to Negotiate Using Silence
Torah Portion – Shelach
I want to start out with a parable. This is a famous parable of the Chofetz Chaim. One time a king was going to send his officer into a foreign land. Before he sent him, he said to him, “Under no circumstances should you make any bets with anybody.” The soldier agreed, and went on his way. When he came to the place where the king sent him, all of a sudden these other soldiers started to make fun of him. They were saying he was a hunchback, and he was saying, ‘I’m not a hunchback.’ And they were saying, ‘Yes you are, you’re a hunchback.’ They bet him 10,000 rubles that he was a hunchback. In order to win the bet, all he had to do was to take off his shirt and just show them, really he wasn’t a hunchback. Then all of a sudden he remembered what the king said. Ah, but the king’s not going to mind in such a situation. I can get 10,000 rubles for him. So, he took off his shirt, and they gave him 10,000 rubles and he went on his way.
When he came back to the king he was all proud. The king first asked him, ‘Did you follow my orders not to make any bets?’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘Not exactly. I just made one little bet. There were these soldiers who claimed I was a hunchback. All I had to do was take off my shirt. They gave me 10,000 rubles. Here it is.’ He says, ‘You idiot. I bet half my kingdom that no one could make you take off your shirt.’” That was the moshul, parable. What’s the nimshal, comparision?
He says, “We’re God’s soldiers. We have orders in the Torah, the Shulchan Aruch. We have to follow the laws of the Torah. Sometimes we hear of leaders that want to compromise in Jewish law, to attract people to Judaism. They want to make shuls, synagogues that drive on Shabbos. They’re going to get a lot more people. They want to may gay shuls, they’ll get a lot more people. What’s the difference, we’ll compromise a little bit. This way we’ll get more Jews to come to shul. That’s the excuse they use to go against the King of Kings, Hakadosh Baruch Hu, to go against the Torah. But they forget, they may be the cause of the half the kingdom becoming lost. In other words, these compromises are not allowed to be compromised. This is what the Torah says, there’s certain things that you can do, there’s certain things you can’t do. You can’t compromise. In the end if you compromise, even if you get 10,000 people to come back to shul, in the end all of Judaism could be lost. He says, “The moral of the story is that the profits of compromise are nothing compared to its losses.”
Great Stories – Rav Meir Shapiro
I want to tell a story about a great Rabbi, Rav Meir Shapiro. He was the one who made the Daf Yomi, the Rosh Yeshiva of Lublin, a tremendous, tremendous talmid chacham, wise man, and a great, great person. One time there was a wealthy donor that was passing through, next to the Yeshiva of Lublin. He says, “I have two hours off. Maybe I’ll go visit the Yeshiva?” He goes to visit the Yeshiva, to see the Rav. At this point, Rav Shapiro was giving a shiur in the Yeshiva. He was giving a class, and there was iron-clad policy that no one is allowed to enter the shiur once the shiur has started. Once the class started, the doors were closed. This wealthy man, Mr. Wolf, comes to the Yeshiva and he sees the guard standing at the door. He says, “Can I come in? I came to speak to the Rav. He tried to persuade him and it didn’t work. So, he starts to threaten him, he starts to get angry. He even gives the guard $100, nothing works. Finally, somebody says, “Okay, you can’t go into the shiur but we’ll take you up into the women’s section. You could look down on the shiur.” They take him up to the balcony, and he stands there for an hour watching the shiur, waiting for the Rav to finish. When he gets to the Rosh Yeshiva, this is a very wealthy man. He says to him, “I was forced to stand in the gallery for an hour and look down at the yeshiva bochurim, boys from a distance. I had to stand up there and look down on everybody.” He was angry and complaining. Rav Shapiro responded to him, “Wealthy individuals like you spend a lifetime looking down at yeshiva bochurim. And you couldn’t even take it for one hour?” In other words, the wealthy man, he thinks that a guy in yeshiva is a shnorrer, he’s a low life. He’s the wealthy guy, it’s just the opposite. The people in the Yeshiva are the important people, and he thinks he’s so important he’s looking down on them. He put him in his place. At that point, the wealthy man realized his mistake, and he regretted his outburst. He apologized to the Rav and gave a huge donation to the Yeshiva. We have to understand how important the people who sit in Yeshivas are. Those people keep the world running.
Torah Portion of the Week – Shelach
In this week’s Parsha, Shelach Lecha, we have a case where the Jewish people want to send spies to the land of Eretz Yisroel, to check it out before they go in, because they were scared. The verse says, “Vayikra Moshe leHoshea bin Nun, Yehoshua.” We know at that point Moshe changed the name of Yeshua and added a yud onto it. Rashi explains that since Yehoshua is going to be one of the important people who were being sent to spy out the land, he added the yud onto his name so it should say yud kay which is the shem, name of Hashem, and he prayed that Hashem should save him from the plan of the spies. In the end, they were going to complain and everybody was going to punished for that, 40 years you have to wander in the desert until that whole generation died off because of what happened.
Moshe prayed for Yehoshua that this shouldn’t happen to him. It happens to be there’s somebody else who was saved besides Yehoshua, which is Kalev ben Yefuna. Kalev was also taken out of the 12 spies, 2 of them made it out of the situation. Kalev also made it out. The question is, why didn’t Moshe Rabbeinu also pray for Kalev? That’s one question. There’s another question, the verse states like this. The Torah tells us they went up to the southern part of the land, and he came to Chevron. The Rashi explains, only Kalev went to Chevron. It says it starts “they”, and it ends with “he”. Why did Kalev go to Chevron? Because that’s the place of the Avos, where the fathers were buried, and he wanted to pray at their grave, that he shouldn’t be drawn into the plan of the rest of the spies. Why is it that Kalev went to go pray, and Yehoshua did not? The third question is, there’s another verse which says, “But my servant Kalev because he had a different spirit in him, and followed me fully.” What is exactly this different spirit? Why don’t we say the same thing by Yehoshua? Yehoshua also followed God fully. There are three questions. I know it’s a little technical, but let’s make it simple. The first question is, why did Moshe only pray for Yehoshua, and didn’t pray for Kalev? The second question is, why did Kalev go pray in Chevron, and Yehoshua didn’t go with him? And the third question is, why does the verse say that Kalev had a different spirit in him, as if Yehoshua didn’t? Both of them did not go along with the plan. So, these are the three questions of the Chofetz Chaim.
The Chofetz Chaim wants to answer, there are two paths that a person can travel in the service of God, when he’s among people who are not going exactly in the right way. How do you deal when you’re in a situation where people are much less religious than you, and you still have to keep company with them? Or society is completely off the way, and you have to deal with society? What are the ways that you can deal with it?
The first way which is obvious, is you can fight. You can stand up and publically declare, “This is wrong. This is not right what you guys are doing. You have to change your ways.” We know that Rav Herman of the last generation, “All For The Boss”, it says he used to go to the beach when the religious people…religious people were going to the beach, it was all mixed, men and women together, he used to go with a sign in front of everybody that says, “This is wrong what you’re doing. Leave the beach, it’s not right.” That’s what you could do. That’s one way to deal with the problem. The other way is to keep quiet, and make it appear that maybe you even agree with the people. But when the opportunity jumps in and you have the chance, then you speak up. In other words, with a small group of people you don’t speak and when you get into a bigger group and you have people on your side, you start to speak up. So, those are the two different ways.
Each way has a pulse and a minus. The first way when you fight, we’re not worried that you’re going to be influenced. Since you’re on the offense, you’re not going to be influenced, have a bad influence from the negative influence of society, because you’re constantly fighting against it. On the other hand, if you don’t fight, you might be influenced. You might start to get used to that way of life.
He brings an example of someone who can stand out in the cold for a little while, but at a certain point he starts to freeze. That would be the downside of not fighting the society. On the other hand, if you fight it’s dangerous. People can attack you if you speak up against people and speak up what’s going wrong in society, they could become attacked. You can actually get hurt. The second side doesn’t have that approach, because you shut your mouth. People don’t know what you think. If you’re being quiet, so in that sense you’re safer.
Moshe Rabbeinu knew very clearly that Kalev and Yehoshua were not going to fall in with the rest of the spies, but he knew they would have different approaches. Yehoshua he knew was going to have an open attack. He added a yud onto his name and he prayed for him that he should be safe. Kalev’s approach was different. He was going to be quiet. But since he was worried about the influence that they would have on him, he himself went to go pray in Chevron and not Yehoshua. And as to why it said that Kalev had a different spirit in him because he really had two sides to him, he was quiet and it was only later that he spoke up. Rashi explains there that they thought he was going to speak on their side, and all of a sudden he turned on them. That’s how he got everybody to listen to him. So, now the three questions are answered. The first question was, why did Moshe Rabbeinu pray only for Yehoshua, because he knew that Yehoshua was going to fight everybody, and Kalev was not. And the second question was, why did Kalev go pray and Yehoshua didn’t go pray? Because Kalev was worried that he was going to be influenced, so he had to go pray. Yehoshua wasn’t worried about that. And why did it say that Kalev had a different spirit in him and not Yehoshua? It was because of his approach. His approach was to pretend like he agreed, and in the end turn around and fight.
The Chofetz Chaim says, “Both approaches are considered virtuous. Both approaches are good. You have to know who you’re dealing with, when and why. He answers a Tosefta with this, this is very interesting. There was a Tosefta that says, “Sometimes in Chazal, Yehoshua comes before Kalev, and Kalev comes before Yehoshua.” Chazal says that this is to teach us that they were equal. The Chofetz Chaim says, “What do you mean they were equals? We know that Yehoshua was much greater than Kalev. Yehoshua became the leader of the Jewish people. Yehoshua received the Torah from Moshe Rabbeinu, and passed it down to all the other generations.” He wants to say, “What do you mean they were equal? The answer is that they were equal in their approach. Both these approaches have value.”
Now I want to talk about Kalev’s approach. Rav Nachman of Breslav said, “In his youth a person learns how to speak. In his old age, he learns how to keep silent. What a pity it is that we don’t learn how to be silent before we learn how to speak.” It’s so true. As you get older, you realize the less you speak, the better you are. When you’re young, you want to fight, and you think you’re going to win. As you get older, you see that not everybody always won, especially when you have a lot of forces against you. It could be forces in your house, in your society, in your family. It’s better to be quiet and to speak at the right time to have a much more powerful effect. And just the opposite, as you get older you get stronger. The Chassam Sofer says on the Mishna, “Who is strong? It says, the one who conquers his inclination.” The Chassam Sofer says there, “Where a weak person immediately opens an aggressive attack to try to weaken his opponent as soon as possible, the strong person constantly bides his time and keeps silent.” In other words, the stronger you are, the less you have to attack in the moment. You can wait. You can wait for the right moment to come, when you’ll be more effective. I think it’s a very, very important lesson to learn in human relationships, about how to keep your mouth shut. And to be effective, you have to wait.
There’s a Gemara in Taanis in 4A that says, “When a Torah scholar becomes angry, it is because the Torah causes him to be angry.” Unbelievable. Rav Ashi said that any Torah scholar who is not as hard as iron is not a Torah scholar. Ravina said that, “Nevertheless, a person needs to train himself to gentle.” Rashi explains, “What does it mean, the Torah makes you angry? Why should the Torah make you angry?” He says, “This is because Torah study gives a person a greater sensitivity and understanding. Nevertheless, a scholar is obligated to give the people the benefit of the doubt.” On that same Gemara, the Meiri says that, “A Torah scholar should minimize his anger as much as possible, to teach them gently that they should pay attention to him. He should also be gentle in order not to cause harm to himself.” Like we said by Kalev, from the Chofetz Chaim. But this idea is very interesting. Rashi said again, that the Torah scholar has greater sensitivity and understanding. In other words, the more you learn and the more you think deeply into things, then you start to understand them on different levels. So, the more sensitive you are to right and wrong. The whole goal of Torah learning is to purify yourself, to become a greater and more sensitive person. But along with that could come anger. It’s very easy like we said in the moshul of the Chofetz Chaim, it’s very easy to compromise. “Yeah, what’s the big deal? This guy’s gay, what’s the big deal? That girl had an abortion, what’s the big deal? Everything…I mean, what’s the big deal about everything?” That’s the direction that our whole world is taking. Nothing is a big deal. Nothing matters. There’s no values. But as a Torah person, you have to have values. You have to stand up for right and wrong. You have to tell your kids and the family and the world, “No, that’s wrong.” You can’t be scared, you can’t be afraid. What’s wrong is wrong. But on the other hand, you have to know when and where. Society has gotten so bad, it doesn’t have the ears to hear. But at least in your own family, in your own community, you have to be sensitive to when you can speak. I’ve found this to be an extremely powerful tool to be quiet in the middle of an argument, and let the other person hold the ball.
I want to tell you now what the Orchat Tzadikim, the Ways of the Tzadikim says. It’s unbelievable. “One who is accustomed to be silent is saved from many transgressions, from flattery, from levity, from slander, from falsehood and from insults. But if one shames and insults him, if he answers him, he will receive a double portion in return.” In other words, if you answer him back you’re going to get screamed at even more. And thus did the Sage say, “I hear the bad thing and I keep quiet.” They asked him, “Why?” He answered, “If I answer my insults I am afraid I will hear insults worse than the first.” And he said, “When the fool contends with the sage, the sage keeps quiet. This is a greater reproof against the fool, for the fool is more distressed by the silence of the Sage than if the sage were to answer him.” He brings a possuk from Mishlei, “Do not answer the fool according to his folly.” You hear this? This silence is more powerful than if he would have spoken. If there’s an argument happening at the dinner table, or in Shul, synagogue or something, so if you speak, people will start fighting back with you. But if someone asks you and you don’t answer back, that silence is more powerful than the words, because in the end, if you’re right, the person will hear it. The truth is the most powerful thing. In the end, the truth will always come out. It may take 10 years, 20 years, 30 years. But it will come out.
I want to end off with something that the Chazon Ish said, this is crazy. An avreich, a yeshiva guy once complained to the Chazon Ish about his wife. “I have no strength to keep quiet in my home any longer.” The Chazon Ish, “That’s a really big chiddush, that’s a very novel idea. A very, very novel idea. To say that a person can get tired just from keeping quiet, that is simply untrue.” They say in Hebrew, “Ain li koach,” I don’t have koach, I don’t have strength. You don’t need strength to keep quiet. Just keep quiet. And we should know that silence is one of the greatest tools in our arsenal for the fight for truth.
Peace in Your Home
I want to end off with a little story about peace in our homes. One time there was a couple who had very good shalom bayis, they really had peace between each other. The trick that they used was that they always spoke about what was bothering them. If it were bothering them, they would speak it out. They’d have a conversation and they’d work it out.
One time, something was really bothering the wife. So, she tried to speak to her husband about it. He wouldn’t really answer her. She got more angry and more angry, he didn’t want to answer her. Then she asked him finally, “Why are you not answering me?” He said, “Look, I have an answer. But right now I’m simply not capable of saying it. I’m not trying to evade you. I promise you, you’ll get a full answer, but not this minute because I just can’t.” Then he continued and said, “Not only that, but I promise you, I am going to answer you tomorrow. And you yourself are going to understand why I’m not capable of answering you now.” She felt bad, what could she do? She went to sleep. The next morning when he came from shul, his wife opened the door, all happy. She said, “I understand what was wrong.” He said, “I knew that was going to happen, and that’s why I didn’t answer you yesterday. But I knew as soon as you thought about it more, you would also understand the way I understood it.”
Rav Nachum Diament says on this story, “He clearly saw that wife wasn’t right, and that she was attacking him on false grounds. He could have easily answered her back. As we say, ‘I’ll show her.’ But he knew that she wouldn’t be able to hear him right then, and she was too upset to accept about what he was saying. And she would start to argue. And when she started to argue, she would never admit she was wrong. So, he just kept quiet. In the end what happened? In the morning she came to him, she said, “I understand that I was wrong.” So, also in terms of shalom bayis, in terms of peace in your home, know when to speak and know when to be quiet. It’s not a weakness to be quiet, it’s a strength. That’s it for this week’s podcast, I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it with your friends, and please leave comments or send in voice mail. Have a great Shabbos.
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