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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Our discussion of "Silence is a Fence for Wisdom"

Last night we met and David Schlesinger led our learning and discussion.  David talked about how the last day to say kaddish for his father, HaRav Natan Ben HaRav Shmuel, aka Dr. George Schlesinger, has been reached, and what this means to him.  We met and studied an article by his father “Silence is a Fence for Wisdom”.

We began by being introduced to the main theme of the article, which is the advice to “know what you say, but don’t necessarily say what you know”.  Of course this is very general, and this advice would seem to apply with respect to certain situations.  So we proceeded to study the article.

The article has a story of 2 characters, Alf and Bill, who play a game of “chicken” with each other.  The game is to drive at each other at a high rate of speed, and the first person to pull away to avoid an accident is labelled "chicken" and loses the game.  Of course in real life we would be more than happy to be labelled a “chicken” and not participate in this game, but in this story both of the characters really want to win the game and not be labelled as the chicken.

In this story, we learn that Alf has a super high IQ around 100,000, where-as Bill has an average IQ of around 100.  At first it would seem fairly obvious that Alf is going to win the game, as he can calculate the exact latest time, to the nearest fraction of a second, in which he can pull away and avoid an accident.  But what we learn in this story, is that Alf made a big mistake.  He let Bill know about his high IQ.  Bill actually wins, because he knows that Alf has a super high IQ and will be calculating times and he, Bill, can simply let Alf be the one to pull away, be the “chicken” and avoid the accident.  If Alf had not told Bill about his IQ, Bill would almost certainly have lost.

The article then goes on to point out where this principle of “not saying what you know” has come up in Torah.  We learn that in the Megillah of Esther, Mordehai, does not let everyone know of his gift of being able to understand multiple languages. And because no-one knows that he speaks multiple languages, Mordehai is able to learn of a plot to kill the King and stop this from happening.

What we learn from this story is that success in life comes from more than just one factor.  Having a high IQ, or having any other talent or gift,  does not guarantee success.  And conversely, having a low IQ or lack of some talant or gift, does not mean that one can not reach his or her goals.  Hashem may give us a gift such as a high IQ but then we have to do our part, which may include not talking so much about ourselves.  And we should never think we can't do something because we do not have some gift.  Hashem has given us what we need to fufill our mission, but we have to do our part.    Click here to read a tribute to Dr. George Schlesinger, including a list of all his books and articles:

This is a summary of what we discussed. No Halachic rulings are intended or should be inferred.
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