March 25, 2022 / 22 Adar II, 5782

#26 SHMINI
Comfort in Silence

Vayikra 9:1-11:47

comforting presence
immersed in cacophony
silence dwells within

In this week’s Torah portion, Shmini, Moshe tries to offer words of comfort to his brother, Aaron, following the horrific deaths of Aaron’s two youngest sons, Nadav and Avihu. After which, the Torah says, Aaron was silent.

וַיִּדֹּ֖ם אַהֲרֹֽן
And Aaron was silent.

Often there is really nothing that needs to be said in trying to comfort a loved one. Or trying to settle a disagreement. People often feel that they don’t know what to say in challenging situations or at times of loss. We may try searching for something comforting and wise to say, some sage advice we can offer. But, at some point, we realize that our silent presence can be the greatest support we can offer. Just being fully present, without speaking at all.

Although I value the power of words and take great care to be mindful in my speech and writing, I have come to appreciate that, at times, silence truly does speak louder than words, as the saying goes. And not only in challenging times or times of loss. Sometimes silence is what we deeply need. Not listening to anyone else talking. Not talking ourselves.

I realize, though, that the absence of words is not completely the same as silence. Because even without words, sounds and vibrations can fill the air. I began to write that I have spent a lot of time in silence over these last seven months during my sojourn in Costa Rica. Although my days are often filled with lively interaction and engagement, I wrote, I have also been able to spend many days and almost every evening in silence on my own.

But that is not exactly true … It is hardly ever totally silent around me and I never feel completely on my own – I have the ocean and the sky and the pouring rain; and the sun and the stars and the moon in every phase of waxing and waning. The wind blowing through big leafy trees and animals of the jungle all offer their own sounds and calls. Even without words, my days here feel full and stimulating … and often loud – like right now with the rain crashing down on the tin roof above, the roosters crowing, dogs barking, and monkeys howling!

Still, within me, I do feel a deep silence and a deep peace even as I am immersed in the cacophony of the wild.

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