Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #27, “Have a filter”
The connotation here is twofold: Be discreet about personal matters, and be circumspect in speech.
The first point is clear: If one’s private life is spilled out, one becomes absorbed in explaining, defending, exaggerating or minimizing it — or being obsessed with it. In any event, modesty is compromised, and a settled mind for the acquisition of Torah is compromised.
Both are a major challenge in an age of social media. How much of one’s personal life should really be “out there” for anyone in the world to see? The advice of Pirkei Avot is “have a filter.” If I am created in the image of G-d, to seek validation from another source diverts my attention from the Torah. To acquire the Torah, a degree of privacy enables me to focus on it.
To be circumspect in speech is not to hide away and never communicate.
Indeed, to communicate is the glory of the human being. But if a person is always “speaking one’s mind” without regard to whom it might hurt, or if a person is revealing secrets that others entrusted with him, or if a person is stirring up conflict by revealing or perceiving ill intent, this is not a life capable of acquiring the Torah. Too many other happenings divert one’s attention.
The 27th way to acquire the Torah: Have a Filter.
Way #1, Study; Way #2, Listen; Way #3, Articulate Speech; Way #4, Understanding of the Heart; Way #5, An Intelligent Heart; Way #6, Awe; Way #7, Fear; Way #8, Humility; Way #9a, Joy; Way #9b, Purity; Way #10, Serving the Sages; Way #11, Interaction with colleagues; Way #12, Exchanges with students; Way #13, Deliberation; Way #14, Scripture; Way #15a, Mishnah; Way #15b, Limited Business Activity; Way #16a, Limited Marital Relations; Way #16b, Portion Control; Way #17, Limited Pleasure; Way #18, All nighters; Way #19, Limited Conversation; Way #20, Limited Entertainment; Way #21, Slowness to anger; Way #22, A good heart; Way #23, Faith in the sages; Way #24, Acceptance of suffering; Way #25, Knowing one’s place; Way #26, Happiness with one’s lot