The Art of Silence and the Beginning of a Poem

Rabbi Mordecai Becher talks about the art of silence in this video where he tells the story of his teacher Rabbi Moshe Shapiro teaching a class. Rabbi Shapiro noticed a recorder that had been placed on the table by a student; it clicked occasionally. The rabbi asked, “What’s with the clicking?” A student responded: “It’s a voice operated recording. When you speak it records and when you’re silent it stops recording. The clicking is the turning on and off of the device.” The rabbi replied, “That is unfortunate. Silence is also communication.”

Rabbi Becher mentions that in the Talmud there is a discussion about the pauses when God spoke to Moses, allowing for Moses to absorb, understand and reflect on what he was being told.

And he quotes from The Book of Job: “Wisdom comes from nothing.” Many say this means that in order to learn something, silence is useful and in fact is the necessary pre-requisite to wisdom.

I would like to practice silence today. When writing a poem, deliberately creating silences. When reading a poem or other text, noticing the silences. In a conversation, to listen and remain quiet for as long as possible, really hear what is being said. When alone stay quiet for two minutes. Notice the silences between the clicking of the keys on the keypad, the car noises outside, the ticking of the clock, birds twittering. Commas, white space, breath. Will I discover? Will my thoughts pour into those spaces? Will my hair comb into them? The deer filling the parks. Bees bumping. This day. (after Alice Miller, “In Time” from Nowhere Nearer.)

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