Musings from Matot (Numbers 30:2-32:42)
N u m 30:15 However, if her husband remained silent from day to day, he has upheld all the vows and prohibitions she has assumed; he has upheld them since he remained silent on the day he heard it.
Torah tells us that silence equates to consent. If a person has the ability to protest, but remains silent, their silence is like consent. This concept has practical applications to our lives. If you hear something that is improper even if you can’t influence the speaker, should you speak up to disagree? If your silence will be understood by others as agreement, then you have an obligation to speak up. Also, your speaking up may influence the original speaker, you can never tell. You may feel pressured not to say anything. But take heart, if the original speaker was able to say something that was improper, then you should be able to speak up and say what is proper.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Actions are not performed in a vacuum, we all have reasons for committing actions. Judaism judges our actions not on the action alone, but based on our motivations. Identical actions are judged differently depending on our motivations. For example, kill a person because you want their valuables and you are a murderor. But kill a person to stop them from killing another, and you are credited with saving a life. The exact same action could be a capital crime or a mitzvah, depending on your motivations.
Doing actions with good motivations will get us accustomed to doing good. Obviously, good intentions don’t always lead to good results. However if you tried to do good, you succeeded. Because you tried. In Judaism, as long as your intentions are pure and a responsible effort is made, the road to Heaven is paved with your good intentions.
Micah 6:6. With what shall I come before the Lord, bow before the Most High G-d? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? 7. Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriad streams of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8. He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord demands of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk discreetly with your G-d.