Parshat Shmini -A Silent Minute for the Bird
בינה בפייסבוק בינה באינסטגרם צרו קשר עם בינה במייל

Parshat Shmini -A Silent Minute for the Bird

Parshat Shmini – A Silent Minute for the Bird

Ran Oron

“And Aaron was silent.” The siren moments on Holocaust Day and Remembrance Day unite and distinguish the Israeli identity. The whole country then pauses for a few quiet moments. Minutes of silence and stillness.

Parashat Shmini is named after the day on which the dedication of the Tabernacle reached its climax. After a week of precise and detailed preparations, Aaron and his sons bring the divine presence into the Tabernacle. At that height of the moment, a great tragedy occurs. The young priests Nadab and Abihu, the two chosen sons of Aaron the priest, sin in forbidden work and disobey the laws of the sacred service. They are punished for their actions and die. Immediately after their death, Moses comforts his brother, “This is what God meant by saying: Through those near to Me I show myself holy, And gain glory before all people.”

Aharon’s response is described in the words that close the verse “And Aharon was silent.”

What is the meaning of the silence? Why was it written that he was silent and not simply kept quiet? What is the difference between being quiet (שתיקה) and silence (דומייה)?

“Being quiet” writes Anita Shapira “is a twilight zone between memory and oblivion… silence speaks no less than speech, but one must make an effort to listen to its silent being”

Being quiet is essentially human. It belongs to the world of speech and will. The world of human connection and interaction. Being quiet is essentially a relief, a pause from a previous movement. A rest. Being quiet belongs to the world of the mind. On the other hand, silence belongs to the world of the sound. The inner sound.  Sound belongs to the world of the heart. The source of silence is internal and inexplicable. Silence demands listening. The secret of the connection of silence to the divine is immanence.

H.N. Bialik in his poem “The Sea of Silence Emits Secrets” explains the power of silence. It is not voluntary, it is simultaneously connected to us and nature. A  greater nature than us. The Sea of Silence, like a baby involuntarily emitting its food, spews out its secrets. According to the poet, the secrets emitting from us shine on us like a star. The silence gives us refuge. It connects us to other worlds.

Silence is the connection of a person to himself and to God. It is the map for the the road ahead. Silence does not ask for an answer, blames or is occupied with external noises or those inside us. It is the source and nature of an accepting and inclusive world. Bialik writes later in the poem about the star he sees; “Raise your eyes – there he is winking, hinting your solace.”  The first step to solace begins with silence. The inner silence and the hearkening inherent to it are the foundations for rebuilding.

The power of Aaron’s silent response comes from inner peace and acceptance. The grieving soul accepts its fate out of absolute faith. The word “to you” in the verse “Vows are paid to you” (Psalms 65) can be understood as “to you” as a person and “to you” as God. The connection is possible only in a peacfull and inclusive mind and from complete acceptance. The reward of personal silence is divine revelation as described later in the parable. “And God spoke to Aaron saying”; Aaron’s reward is a direct and unmediated encounter with God. In this context as well as understanding Bialik’s words, silence allows diverse and unexpected encounters with the divine. On the one hand, in times of sadness, horror and grief and on the other, moments of inspiration and beauty. Faith is the key to these encounters.

The nation celebrates the new tabernacle. It is the climax of the construction of a new center for holy work. An apex of joy and faith. Precisely then the Torah reminds us that the delicate and strong glue that unites us is the silent depth of memory and personal pain. Words become mute in front of a celebrating nation. Personal silence is an inspiration and a foundation for a collective silence and peace of mind. A nation will be strengthened if it will recognize the power of the personal silence, common for many of its members, to unite and connect. The people must embrace it to their hearts. A nation should not gather quietly in roaring anger but listen in silence to its inner voice.

On October 5, 1973, the day before the Yom Kippur War and fifty years before October 7, Yehonatan Geffen published his poem “A Minutet of Silence”. A poem about memories, reflections, missed opportunities, and dreams.

The poem opens with a subtle observation of the world and its details;

“A minute of silence for the leaves, / that in the middle of autumn just fell / A minute of silence for the words, / that in vain we didn’t bother to tell. / A minute of silence for the flowers/ which withered without us giving greet / A minute of silence for the bird, / that wanted to cross here the street.”

It ends with a prayer, a personal request;

“Many minutes of silence / for everything that has ripped me apart / listen now to the siren / the one I have inside my heart. “

Written by Ran Oron

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