Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wyatt Earp's Judaic Temperament

I really like Lawrence Kasdan's 1994 film, Wyatt Earp, which I was watching again recently. In one scene, Earp orients Bat and Ed Masterson to law enforcement in Dodge City, Kansas. He asks them to disarm two drunks walking on the thoroughfare in violation of the city ordinance on carrying firearms. Ed engages them in prolonged conversation before Earp intervenes definitively. He comments:

"You talk too much, Ed."

This wasn't about a mere difference in style. It's revealed moments later that one of the men was reaching for a pocket pistol. In other words, Ed's excessive speech endangered himself and his peers.

Earp's approach might seem aloof or hostile in a logorrheic society. In fact, his comment to Ed Masterson has a strong Biblical foundation. Consider the holy words of King Solomon:
  • "In an abundance of words, offense will not be lacking, but one who restrains his lips is wise" (Proverbs 10:19).
  • "One who is sparing with his words knows knowledge, and a man with a spirit of understanding speaks sparingly" (Proverbs 17:27).
  • "Be not rash with your mouth..." (Ecclesiastes 5:1).
The ArtScroll edition of Proverbs notes regarding the second verse, "The Vilna Gaon understands the verse to refer to a person who values not only his speech but his thoughts, and doesn't waste them on worthless topics."

Excessive, idle talk is all about ego and arrogance--the antithesis of humility prescribed so often in the Torah. As the sage Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi summed up the matter:

"If a word is worth a coin, then silence is worth two."


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ChaseT said...

I bet it made you rage when you couldn't figure out who I worked for to file a complaint.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait till you total 1000lbs.. <3 <3