The Short Of It

Mark Twain wrote of his experience in church: “I couldn’t wait for him to get through. I had $400 in my pocket. I wanted to give that and borrow more to give. You could see greenbacks in every eye. But he didn’t pass the plate, and it grew hotter and we grew sleepier. My enthusiasm went down, down, down — $100 at a time, till finally when the plate came round I stole 10 cents out of it.”

Kol Hamosif Goreah, we say in Hebrew — all who add, subtract. The notion that the level of conviction rises with the number of words is contradicted by the Gettysburg Address and the Ten Commandments. Too much is just too much.

For close to 25 years I’ve sent 200 words weekly to this newspaper. Sometimes the cuts I made bothered me, but mostly they were improvements. And people often read them to the end, in an age when Twitter begins to seem long-winded.

There are definite virtues to length; some books, movies and speeches benefit from complications of plot, from the luxuriance of symbols and nuance. But for the most part, be blunt, be brief — be gone.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.