Rabbon Gamliel’s son, Shimon,
would say: All my life I have been raised among the wise,
and I have found nothing better for the body than silence...
Ethics of the Fathers,
The Talmud goes even further, with the amazing
statement: “What is man’s task in the world? To make himself
as silent as the dumb.”Obviously, one can think of many cases in which
silence is advisable. But is there no greater virtue?
And is this indeed the purpose of life?
Essentially, the world is words—divine
words. “G-d said: ‘Let there be light!’ and there was
light.” G-d said: “May there be a firmament...” “May the
waters gather...” “May the earth sprout forth...,”and our world, in all its infinite variety and
complexity, came into being. As chassidic teaching explains,
these divine utterances not only caused these creations
to materialize; they were, and continue to be, the very
stuff of their existence. What we experience as physical
light is, in truth, G-d’s articulation of His desire that
there be light. Grass is our physical perception of the
divine words “May the earth sprout forth greenery.” And
Obviously, what emanated from G-d’s “mouth”
was not a “voice” in any human or physical sense. The
Torah uses terms from our experience so that by delving
into their significance we can learn something of how
G-d relates to our existence. In our case, the Torah wishes
to describe an existence which, on the one hand, is distinct
from its source, yet on the other, is utterly dependent
upon it and possesses no reality other than that dependence.
This is the significance of the meta-phor “speech” in
regard to creation.
When a person speaks, he creates something that extends
beyond his own being. The thought that he had conceived,
and which, up until now, has existed only within his mind,
is now translated into words that depart his person to
attain an existence distinct from his. Nevertheless, they
are utterly dependent upon him for existence: the moment
he ceases to speak, the entity we refer to as his “speech”
no longer exists. In other words, their existence can
only be defined in terms of his ongoing involvement to
So it is with the world. On the one hand, G-d desired
that a world exist, that it constitute a reality that
(at least in its own perception) is distinct from His.
On the other hand, the world has no independent existence,
possessing no reality other than G-d’s constant involvement
to create and sustain it. What model have we, in the human
experience of reality, for such an entity? Speech. So
what is the world? The closest we can come to answering
this question in humanly comprehendible terms is to say:
The world is G-d speaking.
There is, however, a single exception
to this model for the essential nature of all created
things: the soul of man. Every single creation is described
by the Torah as having come into being by a divine utterance,
except for the soul. The Zohar explains that the soul
is not a divine word but a G-dly thought.
Referring to the above interpretation
of the metaphor of speech, this means that the soul is
a creation which does not “depart” from the all-pervading
reality of G-d. A creation that not only senses its total
dependence upon its source (as, deep down, every creation
does), but one that does not even see itself as an “entity”
distinct from its Creator.
Alone in a verbose world, the soul of man is a thing
of silence. And its mission in life is to impart this
silence to the world about it.
This is an excerpt from "Beyond
the Letter of the Law" by Yanki Tauber published
by The Meaningful Life Center.