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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shemini, Vayikra 10:3. Vayidom Aharon וַיִּדֹּם אַהֲרֹן. Serving Hashem with Silence

The spectrum of reactions to the ongoing tragedy in Japan was expectable and reminiscent of what we remember from the second World War.  Some empathize, some take a pathological delight, most just don't care..

What I find surprising is how many otherwise intelligent people thoughtlessly connect the recent events in Japan to the two incarcerated Yerushalmis.  Have they forgotten the debt of gratitude we owe the Japanese for having saved the Mirrer Yeshiva?  Do they not recognize the stupidity of "seeing" condign justice in Japan when it would be- literally- one million times more appropriate for Germany and Ukraine and Lithuania and Poland to be converted to a furnace?  You talk about how nature takes revenge on behalf of the Jews after the Holocaust?

Our capacity for self-delusion rivals that of our Arab cousins.  But this talent has been abetted by those leaders who used to say that the Second World War was divine retribution brought upon us because of the chillul shabbos in Warsaw, or pritzus, or Zionism, or the Haskala and denial of Torah MiSinai.  If we can claim to understand the divine justice behind the Holocaust, then there's nothing wrong with coming up with imbecilic explanations for such tragic events as occurred in Japan.

My Hashkafa was formed by three great men, each tested in fire, each of whose lives bespoke ancient and hallowed traditions.: My father (one of the great talmidim of Slabodka,) Rav Rudderman, and Reb Moshe.  All three found such explanations both foolish and disgusting.  When they heard that some talmidei chachamim had averred explanations for the Holocaust, they reacted with moral, religious, and physical revulsion.  I think they might express a similar reaction to the "explanations" of the recent events in Japan.  I also remember that the Ponovezher Rov, who was a close friend of our family, was once approached by a man who had lost his family in the war.  The man said, Rebbe, maybe you can answer all of my questions.  The Ponevezher, who had also lost his first wife and almost all his children, told him, I don't have any answers, but I don't have any questions.

In truth, this kind of contemptible talk is beneath notice.  I only posted this because it highlights a lesson that is taught and repeated in this week's parsha.

May Hashem save us from such tragic events.  But what is the appropriate reaction?  After all, we know that whatever happens is the will of Hashem.  The only answer is- Silence.  The appropriate reaction is that of Aharon in this week's parsha:  Vayidom Aharon.

We're used to thinking of "The Avodah of the Kohanim" as involving only the various formal sacrifices listed in Vayikra, avodah that require a Mizbei'ach, and bigdei kehuna, and klei shareis.  The truth is, there was one avodas hakorbanos that is greater than all the others, and that is the Avoda that Aharon did upon the tragic death of Nadav and Avihu.  His sons were the Korbanos, and the Avodah was Shtikah, silence.

We have to learn how and why to be quiet.  Aharon was silent because he knew that Hashem has His reasons for what He does, and he knew that whatever the Creator does is true and good and right.  It doesn't say that he smiled, or danced, or said thank you, and he didn't jump up and say "Halleluyah, they deserved it!"   It was enough that he was silent, and that he reminded himself that Hashem is all-knowing and just, and that Hashem endlessly and lovingly shepherds us towards an eternal state of grace (with rare and well-earned exceptions.)  Interestingly, this week's parsha not only says this, but even reiterates it.  In 11:2, Rashi says that all of Klal Yisrael, who had stood shocked and distraught upon seeing what happened, also accepted Hashem's gzeira in silence, and they, too, were rewarded.

Chulin 89a:
אמר רבי יצחק מאי דכתיב (תהילים נח) האמנם אלם צדק תדברון מישרים תשפטו בני אדם מה אומנותו של אדם בעולם הזה ישים עצמו כאלם יכול אף לדברי תורה תלמוד לומר צדק תדברון

Rav Yitzchak said: what is the meaning of this passuk in Tehillim....  It means that man's craft in this word is to be mute.  Is this also true regarding the study of Torah?  No.  On that we are taught to "go and speak righteously."

Pesachim 50a:
זכריה יד: והיה ה' למלך על כל הארץ ביום ההוא יהיה ה' אחד ושמו אחד אטו האידנא לאו אחד הוא אמר רבי אחא בר חנינא לא כעולם הזה העולם הבא העולם הזה על בשורות טובות אומר ברוך הטוב והמטיב ועל בשורות רעות אומר ברוך דיין האמת לעולם הבא כולו הטוב והמטיב

The day will come, said Zechariah, when Hashem will reign alone on all the Earth, and on that day Hashem and His name will be One.  But isn't Hashem One now as well?  Rav Acha answered, not like this world is the world to come.  In this world, for good news people say "Blessed is the One Who does good for all," and on sad tidings they say "Blessed is the true judge."  In the world to come, it will all be "Who does good for all."

What do we see from these two Gemaros?  That in Olam Hazeh, in matters of Torah and Halacha and Hashkafa, we analyze and form opinions, we take positions and defend them.  But the reaction to Hashem's gzeiros is the opposite: silence, faith, acceptance.  In Olam Habah, we will have the information and the ability and the strength to understand.  In Olam Hazeh, only silence.  Don't make a fool of yourself trying to explain Hashem's gzeiros.

Rav Matisyahu Solomon once said that this is the meaning of the the line we use at Sheva Brachos, "דְּוַי הָסֵר וְגַם חָרוֹן, וְאָז אֵלֵּם בְּשִׁיר יָרוֹן".  The time will come when all suffering will end.  At that time, the אֵלֵּם, the person who was silent during the time of hester panim, will sing and celebrate the glorious import of those hard times, finally revealed to be as great a simcha as that of a wedding.
Another point.  What was Aharon's reward for not questioning?  That Hashem taught him directly a parsha of the law.  What was Klal Yisrael's reward for not questioning?  That Hashem named them specifically when He taught another parsha of law.  Apparently, the reward for our awareness of of our limited understanding and of Hashem's perfect justice and mercy is the divine expansion of our knowledge.  A powerful, albeit silent, declaration of our inability to fathom Hashem's knowledge is the instrumentality of receiving divine knowledge.

Here's a very different perspective about the story of Aharon, and about the rule of אין מוקדם ומאוחר בתורה, that the order of the Torah is not the chronological order:  The Satmarer, in his Divrei Yoel here, says that Aharon was able to bring the dead back to life, but he chose not to, because to do so would interfere with Hashem's will.   He brings the Yalkut Shimoni in Tehillim 625, or on Tehillim 3, which is taken from the Shocher Tov, that says 

איוב (כח:יג)  לֹא יָדַע אֱנוֹשׁ עֶרְכָּהּ
א״ר אלעזר
לא נתנו פרשיותיה של תורה על הסדר
שאלמלא נתנו על הסדר
כל מי שהוא קורא בהן
היה יכול
לבראות עולם
ולהחיות מתים
ולעשות מופתים
לפיכך נתעלם סידורה של תורה.
 וגלוי לפני הקב״ה 
שנאמר (ישעי׳ מד:ה)ה
וּמִי כָמוֹנִי יִקְרָא וְיַגִּידֶהָ וְיַעְרְכֶהָ לִי מִשּׂוּמִי עַם עוֹלָם
וְאֹתִיּוֹת וַאֲשֶׁר תָּבֹאנָה יַגִּידוּ לָמוֹ

I arranged it like this because I like it in metric form.



Daniel said...

How do you see that Aharon knew the seder of the Torah and could therefore revive the dead?

b said...

I don't. The Satmarer, who I was quoting, didn't either. It's just a vort, for goodness sake, meaning that the idea is true, irrespective of whether it jibes with reality.

Moshe Sharon said...

The Parsha Shemini is about the completion of the inauguration of the Tabernacle. The number seven represents all things occurring within the natural construct of this finite world, while the number eight represents all things beyond nature, or infinity. According to Rashi, the eighth day was the day of re-establishing the eternal connection with the Almighty that we had lost when we stumbled and fumbled with the golden calf. Here at the beginning of this portion, we are witness to the momentous occasion of our reconciliation with our Creator, who is beyond all things natural and supernatural. Once Aaron had achieved atonement with the final offerings of the eighth day, the Shechina descended into full view and all of the people fell on their faces. G-d resumed His place among His people. Thus the Torah reminds us that we are a Holy people whose very existence as a nation is beyond nature. Therefore, the prime minister would do well to remember that G-d is the Guardian of Israel and that destroying Jewish homes gives the impression to our enemies that the Israeli government has abandoned the Jewish people who remain in Samaria leaving them at the mercy of the Arab cutthroats. The only way to prevent more killing is for the Israeli politicians to back up the Jewish heroes who are establishing their homes on Jewish land in the face of Arab hatred and, worse yet, Israeli government apathy. More at

Daniel said...

I find that answer more upsetting than my original question to be honest... the egel hazahav was also true (one of the panim on the merkava) but without tracing it to a מקור of a ציווי it is rendered avoda zara...

i don't expect you to waste your time reading my long-winded post that i wrote once for my own catharsis so i don't respect a reply on it or anything.. if you do choose you can just skip down to teh paragraph "and so i come to my point"

Daniel said...

I looked more carefully at the דברי יואל, he says it better than you :-)

His argument is that you see from the Midrash Shocher Tov that ריב"ל knew the seder of the Torah, in which case Aharon he argues is a קו"ח.

It's a little hard to hear that any man should know that since the pasuk says לא ידע אנוש ערכה ולא תמצא בארץ חיים unless you argue that ריב"ל is not considered אנוש or נמצא בארץ החיים...
Was ריב"ל one of the few to enter גן עדן alive?

b said...

What? The Satmarer says it better than me???

OK, I can live with that. But I like your question. לא ידע אנוש ערכה. so how can you say that Aharon or a Tanna knew it?

Daniel said...

the אנוש is the lesser problem b/c I would have intuitively said even without our context that ריב"ל is an אדם and not teh lower level of אנוש.

The second half is the difficulty. ולא תמצא בארץ החיים... However if you understand ארץ החיים as being a reference to the interactive processes of עוה"ז (as Yoma 71a) then the pasuk is saying "for someone to find it he must be no longer in ארץ החיים".... which means he's entered גן עדן alive... hence I'm asking is ריב"ל one of those noted to have entered גן עדן alive...?

[I looked it up. Yes he is. Pasuk and Midrash work beautifully. The Satmar's קו"ח is מופרכת. ]

b said...

Strange, if I were asked the question, I would immediately have quoted the Gemara in Chagiga 14b about arba nichnesu l'pardeis, which lists Ben Azai, Ben Zoma, Elisha be Avuya and Reb Akiva. As far as who never tasted ta'am misa, all I know is the Bavli about lo meisu b'etyo shel nachash, being Binyamin, Amram, Yishai, and Kil'av. The mekoros he brings are interesting, though.

Daniel said...

Really you've never heard of the concept נכנס חיים לגן עדן??
Isn't it a meforash story with R' Chiya or R'Yehoshua Ben Levi in Ketubot with the malach hamavet and his sword or something?

Chaim B. said...

>>>What I find surprising is how many otherwise intelligent people thoughtlessly connect the recent events in Japan to the two incarcerated Yerushalmis.

Right after hearing the new of the tragedy I told my wife, "Wait -- someone is going to tie this in with the trial of those yeshiva kids." Sadly, I'm not even surprised anymore. It's so predictable. One of my kids told me they heard this same theory floating around their school as well. Everybody's a navi these days. It's harder to be a chacham. (Is that the pshat in chacham adif m'navi?)