The JPS Rashi Discussion Torah Commentary

By Steven; Sarah Levy | Go to book overview

MATTOT

❖ The Sound of Silence
Imagine that while you are in the kitchen, your young child enters and, without a word, starts making cookies. Half an hour later, after the dough is ready, your child asks you to turn on the oven. Would you now be justified in objecting because your child did not first ask permission to make cookies? Your silence during the previous half hour would likely constitute acquiescence to your child’s baking adventure. A verse from Parashat Mattot addresses the issue of silence indicating approval when a wife accepts a vow and her husband does not object to it.

And her husband learns of it and offers no objection on the
day he finds out, her vows shall stand and her self-imposed
obligations shall stand. (Num. 30:8)

Rashi comments:

And her husband heard: Here you have [the ruling] that if
the husband endorses it, it stands. (Rashi, Num. 30:8)

Rashi informs us that the husband’s silence constitutes tacit endorsement of the wife’s vows.In many instances, people convey their approval by simply remaining silent. For example, if a typically opinionated participant in a meeting does not raise any objections when a proposal is discussed, people may assume the silence indicates approval.In other circumstances, however, individuals may remain silent reluctantly and despite their opposition to other people’s actions. In such cases, silence may be the practical and moral equivalent of consent—sometimes with dire consequences. For example, the failure of both leaders and citizens to speak up against the Nazi regime may have greatly exacerbated the Holocaust.Rashi instructs us that one can be accountable both for what one says and for what one refrains from saying.
Questions for Discussion
1. Describe a time you chose to keep silent rather than voice your perspective. What motivated you then? Would you act similarly if you were in the same situation today?
2. Describe a time you chose to speak your mind and later questioned whether it might have been better for you to stay silent. Under what circumstances (if any) do you think choosing silence is wisdom?
3. Describe someone you know (or know of) who consistently speaks out against wrongdoing when he or she could easily choose to remain silent. Would you want to be more like this person? Why or why not?

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The JPS Rashi Discussion Torah Commentary
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction - Introducing Rashi xv
  • Genesis 1
  • Bere’shit 3
  • NoaḤ 6
  • Lekh Lekha 9
  • Va-Yera’ 12
  • Hayyei Sarah 15
  • Toledot 18
  • Va-Yetse’ 21
  • Va-YishlaḤ 24
  • Va-Yeshev 27
  • Mikkets 30
  • Va-Yiggash 33
  • Va-YeḤi 36
  • Exodus 39
  • Shemot 41
  • Val-‘Era’ 44
  • Bo’ 47
  • Be-ShallaḤ 50
  • Yitro 53
  • Mishpatim 56
  • Terumah 59
  • Tetsavveh 62
  • Ki Tissa’ 65
  • Va-Yak’Hel 68
  • Pekudei 71
  • Leviticus 75
  • Va-Yikra’ 77
  • Tsav 80
  • Shemini 83
  • Tazria’ 86
  • Metsora’ 90
  • ’AḤarei Mot 93
  • Kedoshim 97
  • ‘Emor 100
  • Be-Har 103
  • Be-Ḥukkotai 106
  • Numbers 111
  • Be-Midbar 113
  • Naso’ 116
  • Be-Ha’Alotekha 120
  • ShelaḤ-Lekha 123
  • KoraḤ 127
  • Ḥukkat 130
  • Balak 134
  • PinḤas 138
  • Mattot 141
  • Mase’Ei 144
  • Deuteronomy 147
  • Devarim 149
  • Va-EtḤannan 152
  • ‘Ekev 156
  • Re’Eh 160
  • Shofetim 163
  • Ki Tetse’ 167
  • Ki Tavo’ 171
  • Nits Avim/Va-Yelekh 174
  • Ha’Azinu 177
  • Ve-Zo’t Ha-Berakhah 181
  • Subject Index 185
  • Index of Sources 189
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