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The Importance of Silence

May 1, 2023

Rabbi Geier


BSD || Rabbi Geier

The Importance of Silence

When we listen to music, regardless of our choice or level of passion for it, we quickly learn it is not just about the musical notes. Equally crucial are the rests, which provide the cadence, give rise to the rhythm, and allow the notes to vibrate and transmit even while they are silent.

By appreciating music, we learn the importance of silence. When we converse, we realize the enormous value of listening not only to our own sounds but also to the silences that provide space for the other person to express themselves and for us to understand them better.

In our Torah reading, a similar principle applies. While certain parts of our people's history are explicitly stated in the text, most of the stories that make up our journey are filled with details that help affirm our attachment to tradition and values. However, just as we have silences in music and conversation, there are gaps in the Torah where the whole story is not presented. The oral tradition, passed down through generations, provides possible explanations and interpretations for what the biblical text leaves open to interpretation. This is what we call the Hagadic Tradition or Midrashim, which were carried by word of mouth for centuries until they were included in the Talmudic canon.

These stories come to us in the form of tales, perhaps told by our parents and grandparents, as well as countless rabbinic drashot. One such story is the well-known tale of our patriarch Abraham (then known as Abram) rebelling against the idolatry that surrounded him and breaking the idols made by his father. This story is not found in the Torah, but rather in the silence of what is not explicitly told, leaving it to be discussed and interpreted by future generations.

Our Jewish people and Judaism as a whole are largely nourished, fed, and sustained by stories. However, we have a problem with the contemporary history of our people. If our young people have any attachment to our ancient tradition, it is much weaker than their attachment to the story of our modern history, specifically the history of the state of Israel - its origins, struggles, achievements, and missteps. Israel's history, from its origins, has been the subject of countless books by various authors, containing heroic stories as well as moments of misfortune and enormous resilience. Above all, Israel is as dependent on the diaspora as the diaspora is on it.

Without the help of the Jewish diaspora, Israel could not have been born or existed. From political, financial, and economic aid to military and strategic support, we have aided the country since its inception so that today we can feel proud that there is a country that accepts us as Jews and provides us with shelter, should we choose to seek it.

In the same way, Israel continues to be, as before, the center of Jewish life. Cities like Jerusalem, Tiberias, Tzfat take us back to other centuries of religious inception that reaches us today, in the same way they showed us a different religious and also secular Judaism.

Israel is that home to which we can go or return when we feel we must.

Perhaps that is why I feel it is necessary to revitalize the stories among our young people (and also adults). These stories are the ones that will prevent media attacks from questioning the belonging or will install empathy to a country committed to justice and human rights from its onset on some of us. They may generate more involvement with Israeli society at a time when civil freedoms are being threatened to be compromised. If we succeed in this idea, it would lead us to have other day to day traditions. These traditions bring us closer to our Israeli brothers and sisters from a different cultural, historical and even gastronomic viewpoint. All these paths are good to continue uniting us as a people.

We have just celebrated Yom Ha Zikaron, the day of remembrance of those fallen for the State of Israel, and Yom Haatzmaut, the day we celebrate the establishment of the State of Israel after 2,000 years of diaspora in which our People yearned to return to the land that was promised to us.

It does not matter how you have celebrated one date or the other, or if you have not. Take the time to search your memory for that story that can bring your children closer to Eretz Israel. Look for the book, the film, the photo that can help you and spend some time telling to your loved ones about this essential and fundamental part of our history and our future as a People. Make it a “Vehigadta le bincha”, (and you will tell your son and daughter), as we recite it on Pesach, an adapt it to OUR current story which includes the story of “hakamat Eretz Israel”, the establishment of the State of Israel.

Chag Shavuot Sameach for everyone!

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