Image: A woman sits silently, arms folded. (ivanovgood/pixabay)
And Rabbi Ile’a said in the name of Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon: Just as it is a mitzvah for a person to say that which will be heeded, so is it a mitzvah for a person not to say that which will not be heeded. Rabbi Abba says: It is obligatory for him to refrain from speaking, as it is stated: “Do not reprove a scorner lest he hate you; reprove a wise man and he will love you” (Proverbs 9:8). — Yevamot 65b
In the midst of a discussion of the command to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” (Genesis 1:28) the Talmud goes on a little side trip. The wording is a bit awkward in this translation (from the excellent Sefaria.org website). I shall rephrase:
Rabbi Ile’a said, according to Rabbi Elazar ben Rabbi Shimon, “It is a mitzvah to rebuke another person when the rebuke will be heeded. It is similarly a mitzvah for a person to refrain from rebuking another when they know their words will not be heeded.” Rabbi Abba agreed: “That one is obliged to refrain from speaking, as Proverbs 9:8 says, ‘Do not reprove a scorner lest he hate you; reprove a wise man and he will love you.'”
This passage reminds me of times when I have engaged in arguments with online trolls – people who enjoy starting quarrels and upsetting people for the fun of it. A fictional example:
TRUEBELIEVER: COFFEESHOPRABBI is a stupid libtard!
COFFEESHOPRABBI: Please don’t use words that stigmatize people with disabilities.
TRUEBELIEVER: Stupid libtard! Stupid libtard! #StupidLibtard!
COFFEESHOPRABBI: I’m not calling you names. Why are you calling me names?
TRUEBELIEVER: MAGA! MAGA! MAGA!
As Maureen points out in the comments, the “Block” function on most online systems is the best option at such times. When I’m thinking clearly, I answer the first line – namecalling – with a block. No conversation, no second chances, just silence.
My time is better spent encouraging voters to get to the polls, or calling my representatives. So is yours.
Rabbi Ile’a was right.