An Eloquent Silence

Nov 11th, 2010 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
That silence is one of the great arts of conversation is allowed by Cicero himself, who says, there is not only an art but even an eloquence in it.

– Hannah More

There is such an eloquent silence, among the many moments of silence in this week’s portion: Jacob is furious with Laban for switching Leah for Rachel. Laban responds with allusions to Jacob’s treachery to Eisav when. He says, “We do not do such in our place to put the younger before the older.” Laban’s unspoken criticism of Jacob’s theft of the blessings from his older brother are unspoken, but potent.  Jacob remains silent. He does not attempt to explain himself, to justify his actions. He knows that his words will fall on deaf ears. He remains silent, as if accepting defeat, and introduces the topic of Rachel.

“And he heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying,’Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s; and of that which was our father’s he has gotten all this wealth.” Jacob remained silent.

“And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and behold, it was not as it was before.” Jacob remained silent.

Jacob and Laban have their canal confrontation. Jacob does not respond directly to Laban’s words, but, “Swore by the ‘Fear of his father Isaac.”

Jacob surely knows the reasons Leah chose the names for her sons, “Because God has seen my humiliation,” “Because God has heard that I am unloved,” “This time my husband will become attached to me,” and he remains silent.

“When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, ‘It is to me that you must come for I have clearly hired you with my son’s dudaim.’ So he lay with her that night.” (30:16) Not a word. “I hired you,” and he does not protest. “My son,” and he remains silent.

Which is the most eloquent moment of silence?

To Be Continued…

Author Info:
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