Monday, March 17, 2014

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

This was originally written in 2011, after the Tsunami disaster in Japan.  Unfortunately, the twisted hashkafos that inspired it have remained with us.

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 reduced to ash?  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, zeicher tzadikim livracha.  All three found such explanations 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 prove that you're a fool by 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.   (Please read it inside; Reb Daniel Mokhtar says the Rov says it better than I did.)  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.


  1. Maybe you can contrast the implicit acceptance of the limits of human reason that "vayidom Aharom" reflects with the behavior of Nadav and Avihu who went above and beyond what they were commanded because they felt they could reach higher levels of some kind.

  2. BS"D
    Discussion with Moishela (with his family)
    A Handicapped child
    24 Adar 2 5774 (March 25, '14)

    "Achdus Is To Be One With Hashem"

    I want to tell you something very important. I want to tell you that the only way that we are going to survive this terrible time before Moshiach brings us to the Geula Sheleimah is by having Achdus, and Achdus is to be one with Hashem. Those so-called Jews that do not want to be one with Hashem cannot have Achdus with Jews that have chosen to have Achdus with Hashem, His truth, and His Torah. The Olam Habah of Moshiach that Hashem has promised us will not be able to accommodate the Apikores the atheist the Erev Rav the Jew-hating gentile, the Amalak, the Helininst etc. Therefore I beg all true Jews to band together and separate ourselves from the evil ones. We must stop mixing with them because their distorted Judiasim could rub off on us and our very spiritual and physical existence can be endangered. We can be polite to them, but they are not part of the truth. We can't mingle with them because it makes us become like them. It rubs off and therefore this is not what Achdus is.

    Achdus is to be one with Hashem. That means Am Yisroel must be one with Hashem. On Har Sinai when Hashem lifted the mountain over our heads and we said Na'aseh Venishma, that was Achdus. Only that Achdus will save us. Therefore I don’t know how many Yidden will be left to greet Moshiach. However those that will be left will be those that stood at Har Sinai, and said Na'aseh Venishma, and that is the true Achdus, and we will do the same thing. We won't be standing at Har Sinai, but we will be standing together and we will say again Na'aseh Venishma. We will say Shema Yisroel and we will be one, one nation together with the one and only G-d, the Hakol Yachol, the Ribbono Shel Olam and then we will be ready to become true and eternal Bnei Chorin.

    I am very worried about Am Yisroel because I know that as of right now we don’t really have this kind of Achdus, Hashem Yishmor. Some of us have Achdus with the Egel HaZahav, and a bit with Hashem, and some have Achdus only with themselves and their desires, even though they are considered Chareidi Jews and dress like Chareidi Jews. Boruch Hashem, there are still some Jews that are really looking for truth and are trying to have this kind of Achdus. But the Frum society all over the world has broken up into groups. It's not one Am anymore. It's this one with this Rebbe and that one with the other Rebbe or with this Rav or with that Rav. Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Chassidish, Litvish, Taimani, etc. everyone with their own little groups and unfortunately those little groups have become the whole world for each one of their members, and therefore it's hard to have Am Yisroel Echad, and very many times in these Chareidi groups, their connection with the group becomes almost an Avodah Zorah, Shelo Naida. And therefore, there will come a time where all the Sheker will disappear and those who are seeking truth will come together Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Chassidish, Litvish, Taimani, etc. We will come together as one. Until that happens we can't have the Geula Sheleimah, but it will happen soon, and it will happen suddenly, but I don’t know how many will be part of that group that will enter into the Geula Sheleimah alive.

    I cannot tell you how many nights I don't sleep over this just thinking how many Jews are going to fall by the way because they really don’t have the souls of Yidden, but Erev Rav. It's so hard to know who they are, especially if they are considered Frum Yidden. Still this is the fact and this is the way it is going to be. I have to remind you that it doesn’t mean that any Jew that Chas Vesholom, is Niftar before the Geula Sheleimah, is an Erev Rav. No we'll know at the end who the Erev Rav are and their death will be much different than a regular one.

    But I cry at night many tears because I feel that there will be a comparatively few Jews that will actually greet Moshiach Tzidkainu.

    1. I would like to know who you are. You can send me a personal note at my address, eliezere at aol, or respond here. Even in halacha, and kal vachomer in subjects such as this, who you are and what motivated you to write makes an enormous difference in how to perceive what you wrote. The weight and significance of things like this simply don't propagate in a vacuum.