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In Chapter 1 of Pirkei Avot it's written:

"17. Shimon his son said: All my days have I grown up among the wise and I have not found anything better for a man than silence. Studying Torah is not the most important thing rather fulfilling it. Whoever multiplies words causes sin."

I wanted to know, an explanation, of what exactly is this silence. And if there is somewhere else that might mention this kind of silence. I mean, is it like a contemplative silence? A meditation? Or listen rather than say, implying you would say "wrong" things? Hence, sin?

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Maimonides's commentary on Avos explains that

when someone has a lot of words he will sin, after all, as it's impossible that among his words won't be one word that's inappropriate to say.

He goes on to list five categories of speech: mitzva speech (like Torah study), forbidden speech (like false testimony), inappropriate but not outright forbidden speech (like idle chatter), high-quality but not mitzva speech (like praising those who do good deeds), and the rest (like what's needed to live and do business, etc.). He writes that the first four categories are obviously to be minimized/maximized: Avos is here telling us to minimize the final category of speech.

The Rav, in his commentary, esplains differently:

and I have not found good for a body but silence — that he hears his insult and is silent.

The Tif'eres Yisrael has different wording in Avos:

and I have not found good for a body from silence.

He explains that this refers to a student, who gains nothing from constant silence. For one thing, people will suspect him of stupidity or of ignoring what the teacher is saying; for another, only through speaking about the subject matter can one understand it properly and remember it.

  • 2
    Very interesting! Thanks for your explanation! – Charlie May 19 '13 at 16:39
  • The fence of wisdom is silence ,Rabbi Akiva. – sam May 19 '13 at 23:14

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