Actions Should Speak Louder than Words

Yael Eckstein  |  October 18, 2021

Abraham greets three strangers

“And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.”
They said, “Do as you have said.”
— Genesis 18:5 (NKJV)

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Vayera, which means “and he appeared,” from Genesis 18:1-22:24.

One of my favorite quotes from Benjamin Franklin is, “Well done is better than well said.” It pops into my head all too often when someone is telling me about some grand plan that they have or singing their own praises.

God gave us the power of speech, and we are supposed to use it in the right way, but all too often people just use words as a substitute for actually doing what they need to do. In truth, actions should speak louder than words.

In Pirke Avot, “Chapters of the Fathers”, a 2,000 year-old book of ethical and moral teachings from the Jewish tradition, this same idea is expressed this way: “Speak little and do much.” When I first studied these words many years ago, I remember thinking, “Why ‘speak little?’ What’s wrong with speaking a lot as long as you do much at the same time?”

But the truth is that when people “talk a big game,” it often leads to disappointing results. And especially when helping others, talking a lot makes us less sensitive to the needs of the person we are helping.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

The next few verses describe how Sarah made cakes from fine flour and how Abraham ran to the flock to slaughter a calf to serve them as the main dish.

We see this lesson right at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion. Abraham saw three “men” — who were really angels — passing by and invited them in to relax, wash up, and eat. Abraham told them that he would bring them “a morsel of bread.” But then look what he brought them!

Abraham said only a little, but did much, much more. His actions spoke louder than his words, or as Benjamin Franklin would say, “Well done is better than well said.”

Your Turn:

How can our actions speak louder today than our words? What can we do for someone that goes beyond their expectations today?