In this week’s Parsha, we encounter a confrontation between Zimri, a leader from the Shevet of Shimon, and Moshe as to why he can’t marry a non-Jewish woman. Zimri then challenges Moshe regarding Moshe’s own marriage to a non-Jew. Zimri and his companions even question whether Moshe had the right to forbid or permit such a marriage, asking (Rashi 25:6), “is this one forbidden or is she permitted? If you say she is forbidden, who permitted the daughter of Yisro for you”.
In response to Zimri’s confrontational question, Moshe could have given a wide variety of possible answers, among them how Moshe met Tziporah before the Torah was given at Har Sinai, so it was a clearly permitted marriage. Instead, Moshe remained silent.
But why? Wouldn’t people confuse the silence with admission, diminishing Moshe’s reputation in the eyes of the people?
Let’s be a bit forward thinking; Zimri confronts Moshe and Moshe answers back. Based on the confrontation tone of Zimri, it doesn’t look like he will be satisfied with any answer that Moshe gives. So, what would have Moshe accomplished were he to answer back?
I think we can take away two pointers from here:
- When something is a lost cause, don’t waste your limited energy fighting it. Additionally, people will appreciate you for not lowering yourself to the level of mud-throwers.
- You don’t need to respond to every accusation thrown your way, as silence, when used correctly, is all too often the best choice of action (or inaction). It states in Avot 3:13 that סיג לחכמהת שתיקה, as when we restrain from engaging in pointless arguing, we create a protective barrier for our wisdom and prevent it from being compromised.
Instead of engaging in unnecessary disputes, it is often wiser to remain silent and let the truth unfold in its own time (as we see immediately in the following pasuk). Applying this principle to our own lives, we can understand that instead of hastily reacting to disagreements or conflicts, we should adopt a patient and contemplative approach. By choosing silence over argumentation, we allow the truth to reveal itself naturally, without the distortion that often arises from heated debates. Let us remember the deafening power of silence as we navigate through life, seeking harmony and truth.