With a beautiful Passover in the rear-view mirror, I finally had a few moments to read “The Stranger in the Woods – The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit” authored by my friend Michael Finkel. I have to admit, that while reading, I felt a bit jealous at times, not because I want to live alone in the woods for twenty seven years, but because there is something so sacred about silence. As a rabbi, sermonizing, listening, teaching and conversing is a constant; having a few moments of silence, both internally and externally, sounds amazing.
In this week’s Torah portion, Shemini, we read about the death of Nadav and Avihu, two of Aaron’s four sons. They entered the Tabernacle, into the Holy of Holies, either intoxicated or in elated spiritual ecstasy, and tragically died as a result. Aaron listens to his younger brother Moses extolling their unique virtue, and "Aaron is silent". He doesn't argue with Moses, doesn't defend or debate G-d's actions, doesn't eulogize his beloved sons, he's just silent. The pain was so deep, the hurt so raw and the questions so numerous, that Aaron chose silence and internalization during that period of grief.
In the 80's the Rebbe of Blessed Memory worked tirelessly to have a Moment of Silence introduced into the US public school system. Thirty or sixty seconds each day, where a child can think/meditate about their Creator and the amazing creation, would do wonders for our children and subsequently our society. I for one, now more than ever, appreciate the gift of silence. We shouldn't be hermits, as societal interaction is vital for serving G-d, but an occasional pause to ponder instead of yapping, would do wonders for our well-being.
In the words of Ausonius: He who does not know how to be silent will not know how to speak!
May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!