14 - Situations - Say Little And Do Much

Some people speak about themselves at length, giving others, and perhaps themselves as well, the impression that they are accomplishing a great deal, when in truth their deeds may be paltry and few. The proper way to conduct oneself is to speak litt

We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.


Last week’s stretch of the week was:  Greet one person warmly who you normally might not greet in that way.   

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.

Situations Lesson #14


Say Little And Do Much 

Emor M’at Va’asay Harbay -

אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Perek Aleph, Mishna Tes Vav Part 2

Story(based on a true story)

I have a medical problem called Crohn's Disease that forces me to have flare-ups that come on suddenly without warnings and can be quite debilitating.  Managing a family with little children under such circumstances can become challenging to say the least.  If not for the support of my community and some amazing friends, my success would be less than doable.  This brings me to Roizy, one of my very special friends.  She has told me that whenever I am sick and need help with meals, that I should always call her first.  

Recently when I was ill and the thought of making food for Shabbos was overwhelming, I called Roizy on a Thursday morning and told her that I was sick.  She very kindly told me that she was very busy that week, and wasn't sure she could make me a whole Shabbos meal but I could count on her help for soup and challahs.  I thanked her and told her that would be wonderful and that hopefully on Friday morning I would feel better enough to make chicken and potatoes myself, and my husband would help with fish and cholent and then we'd be set.  

Thursday night, I got a knock on my door and as expected Roizy came with the soup and challahs, along with chicken, kugels, fish and dessert!  She told me she wound up having extra time, and made extra of everything her family was having.  On the phone she was afraid to promise me in case she didn't have the time, but in the end she did and it all worked out.  

She was so happy to be helping me, and the relief she gave me was immense.  I found that her way of doing it so quietly and modestly felt special.  She was going to do a little bit, and wound up doing so much.  

It reminded me of another situation that took place around Shabbos food.  In my community my family has several very close family friends that we get together with periodically to celebrate someone's birthday or to spend one of the Yomim Tovim together.  We all pitch in to cook for the meal, dividing the courses and making dishes to serve.  On one of these occasions, I had been having a hard month but didn’t consider myself "horribly" ill.  I chose to make the first course; challah and salads.  

I'll admit that I put much more energy into the three extra-large challahs, rather than into the three small salads.  Don't get me wrong; the salads were nice, but not my usual fare.  Our group tops at about twenty people, but by the time I had gotten around to preparing the salads, I had lost energy and it showed.  

I brought them over to the hosts’ house before Shabbos began.  The hostess was herself in charge of the main course, and without saying anything to me, she prepared some fun extra salads and two nice fish loaves to round out the first course.  When we came for the meal, and it was set up, I was so grateful to see it looking so nice.  

Inside I was ever so thankful that my friend had quietly and thoughtfully made up for whatever lacked in the first course so that no one would be the wiser.  She is such a loving person.  I knew by the way she hugged me when I had first delivered the food that she instinctively knew how I was feeling and had compensated.  What she had done so quietly for me, was done out of pure love for me.  

Pirkay Avos:

"...אמור מעט ועשה הרבה... "שמאי אומר   

“Shammai omer:  emor m’at va’asay harbay…”

“Shammai says:  …say little and do much...” (Perek Aleph, Mishne Tes Vav).

Some people speak about themselves at length, giving others, and perhaps themselves as well, the impression that they are accomplishing a great deal, when in truth their deeds may be paltry and few.  The proper way to conduct oneself is to speak little and do much.

This was true of Avraham Avinu.  When the three angels came to his tent in the guise of Arab travelers, Avraham ran to greet them with the simple words, “I will take a loaf of bread and you shall sustain your heart, and then you may travel onward” (Beraishis 18:5), but he rushed to prepare them an elaborate meal, slaughtering three fine calves to feed them tongue with mustard, and asking Sara to quickly bake cakes of the finest flour.

Ya’avetz teaches us that saying little and doing much is a natural consequence of one’s awareness of how limited one is in comparison to the great expectations that HaShem has.  As much as such a person accomplishes, he feels that he has not done enough.  Therefore, Shammai states, “Say little.”  No matter how much you have accomplished, view it as a mere fraction of what is expected of you; this will bring you to “do much.” 

Our sages state that “a person who says that he will rise early and learn Torah” or makes similar comments “has made a serious vow before the G-d of Israel” (Nedarim 8a).  If, for whatever reason, he does not fulfill that vow, he transgresses a commandment in the Torah.  Shammai advises us to say little, since “it is better that you do not vow than that you vow but not fulfill” (Koheles 5:4).  

This is true not only with HaShem but with others as well.  If a person commits to an act, or even leads his friend to believe that he will do an act, and then does not fulfill it, he becomes untrustworthy in his friend’s eyes.  In addition, his friend may have been relying on him and did not make other arrangements.  A person who is known as a “doer” is more highly regarded than one who is “mostly talk,” and will be given many more opportunities to help others.

(Largely reproduced from Rav Lau on Pirkei Avos, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)

Discussion Question Options:

Give examples in which we might "do little, but say a lot".  How can we correct this?

Under what circumstances when we might make a commitment we're not sure we will keep?  How can we be aware of this so we won't make this mistake?

Discuss what sort of people are doers and who are not.  How can we become better doers?

Stretch of the Week:

Do something this week where you deliberately "say little but do much".  


Stretch Of The Week