Friday, March 21, 2014

Shemini: The Meaning of Silence

Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai lost his son, and Rabbi Yose came to comfort him by saying, "Aaron had two grown sons who died in one day yet he was comforted for the loss of them as it is written, 'and Aaron was silent' [Lev. 10:3].  His silence implies a willingness to be comforted - you, too, must be comforted."
Rabban Yohanan responded, "Is it not enough that I have my own grief that you must remind me of Aaron's grief?"

Most people, I suspect, can relate to both sides of this story - the grieving or suffering friend who must tolerate the lame attempts of others to provide comfort and the friend trying to offer help who realizes the banality of the words he is saying even as he says them.

Our parshah, Shemini, is about a lot this week, but Aaron's silence, and what it means, or doesn't, is perhaps the most powerful lesson (isn't silence always like that?).  In the end, we must try to avoid making assumptions about the internal struggles other have been or are going through.  We cannot know how much what might not hurt me or some third person has crippled the friend at hand.  Nor should we be deaf to the intentions of our friends even when their words or actions don't quite help us.  None of us should just settle for being left alone in silence when we really are in need, and none of us should fall silent when we aren't sure if we can help - but being mature enough and sensitive enough to understand the meanings of silence is something we must all hear.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Benson

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