taking it to the street

Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-tostreetsShammai taught: "Say little and do much." — Avot 1:15

Rabbi Natan said, “What does this mean? It teaches that the righteous say little and do much, whereas the wicked say much and do not even a little.”  — Avot 13:3

In Judaism, it isn't so much about what you know, but what you do.  Judaism is a doing religion, not bound up in the recesses of your mind in theology.  True, we need some truths to operate by, but we don't spend our time crowning ourself with laurels because we have these truths.  We are expected to act.  It is in our actions by which we will be deemed trustworthy or not. It's not our talking points or our lofty dissertations, but what we do on the street.

So how do we say little and do much?  Does this mean that we aren't to talk about spiritual and physical matters?  I don't think this is what this verse is implying.  Instead of talking about things, maybe to the point of over-talking, there is a time for action.  Have you ever met someone who comes up with grandiose ideas but does nothing to see them through?  Do you hear people make vain promises or commitments and never act on them?  Have you ever heard people talking righteously but never demonstrating it in their own lives?  Of course you have, and this is what this verse is aiming at changing.  We have to move beyond the realm of speech and put it to the ground, in our deeds, on the path that we walk daily. 

The Bible lays less stress on an abstract concept of truth and far more on reliability and trustworthiness.  

-- Exodus, Henry Leopol Ellison, pg. 180

Our ability to bring something from the mind into reality will only happen when we realize that moralizing, dreaming, and speculating are just part of the process.  It is in the doing that will render us responsible, trustworthy, and reliable.  If you can bring whatever truth, wherever you are at, and take it from speech to action, then you are really getting somewhere.  And by this, you will be known.  In whatever you say, be sure to stop yourself short and do it.  Take the time to act on those words, those truths, and make for yourself a good name: one in which people can put their trust and faith.  The fruits of your labors and intentions will be made known and will be a sign to others that you mean business and can be counted on.  For it is then, and only then, that you will be deemed trustworthy.

"Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of gifts he does not give." —Proverbs 25:14

Use this checklist to assess how trustworthy you are and to find the areas you need to work on:

  • when you make commitments, do you follow through?
  • do you come up with a lot of ideas but are not part of any process to see things into action?
  • do you commit to something verbally and then back out after a while?
  • are you chronically late when you say you will meet people at specific times?
  • do you chronically gossip about others?
  • do you have people who can vouch for your good name?
  • do people offer you responsibilities easily?
  • do you associate with people who have a good name?
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