Monday, June 30, 2008

Brevity—the Soul of Wisdom

Once, Rav Yechezkel Abramsky, zt”l, learned that a convention of prominent Jewish academics was set to be held in London and decided that he, too, would like to attend. When he arrived, he requested permission to speak in front of the group of respected personages. His request was granted. On the dais, Rav Abramsky spoke with great feeling regarding the paramount importance of strengthening Torah, and quoted liberally from the Shulchan Aruch to prove his point.
One of the most prestigious academics raised a very simple but controversial objection. “But Rabbi, all genuine scholars know that the Shulchan Aruch is outdated. So what you are saying is meaningless.”
At this outburst of audacity, a number of participants followed suit and voiced their objections to the Rav . Each person voiced his “proofs” and it appeared as though, instead of a Kiddush Hashem, the opposite would be the result of the Rav’s speech.
To everyone’s surprise, their objections didn’t faze Rav Abramsky in the slightest. Instead, he made a simple request. “Please have a pen and paper ready.”
Everyone wondered what this was all about. The Rav didn’t leave them in suspense for long. “You are all basing your views on your superior understanding, so you surely won’t object to a little test of your acumen. I am going to tell you a true story. Please summarize it in the most concise fashion that you can.” He started to relate a very complicated case replete with numerous details. When he finally finished, it was clear that even the best summary was rather long.
Then the Rav opened a book and read the most concise and clearly superior summary to the incredulous professors. Rav Abramsky then turned to the professor who had been first to object. “The advantage of brevity is known to all. See how this work managed to include every single detail and complexity without wasting a single word. How long your summaries were compared with that of the Shulchan Aruch in Choshen Mishpat—the ‘outdated’ work whose wisdom clearly exceeds your own!”

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