Whether from the Book of Ecclesiastes or from the lyrics of Pete Seeger, most of us are familiar with the thought, “to everything there is a season.” This adage is followed with examples such as “a time to weep and a time to cry; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” One of the later lines reads “a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” Indeed for everything there might be a season, but that doesn’t help us determine when the right moment is. When do we keep silent and when do we speak?

This week’s Torah portion Tetzaveh is one of the many places we see examples of the tension between silence and sound. It includes descriptions of the “priestly garments”, the clothes for Aaron and his sons as they fill their priestly duties. The text explains that the garments have both little bells and yarn tassels. When the priests move, the bells make noise but the tassels do not. On this holy piece of clothing, both are present.

It is important to speak up and share our voices. It is good to participate in conversations in school or at work, sharing our opinions and ideas. We can also actively speak up to share positive feedback with one another, to say hello when we pass each other, and to ask meaningful questions about one another’s days. By using our voices in this way we have the potential to make others feel good about themselves. But our voices can also be hurtful. We should be  not to use our voices to spread gossip or lies and we should be careful with our words so that we do not embarrass someone. Just as our words can bring joy they can also bring pain, and perhaps those are the moments in which we should remain silent. To everything there is a season, a time to keep silence and a time to speak.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about when to speak out and when to keep silent.


  • When was a time you spoke out? Was it the right moment to speak out?
  • Is there a time when you spoke but perhaps should not have? What might you have done differently?
  • When was a time you kept silent? Was it the right moment to be quiet?
  • Is there a time when you kept silent but should not have? What might you have done differently?
  • When you keep silent, are you aware of your body language and facial expressions? Are they “speaking out” for you?

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.