Thursday, April 10, 2014

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Acharei Mos – Shabbos Hagadol 5774

“RABBI’S MUSINGS (& AMUSINGS)”
Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Acharei Mos – Shabbos Hagadol
11 Nissan 5774/April 11, 2014

Do you know who I really feel bad for? Silent letters. For some reason the English language has no compunction about sticking extra letters into the middle of words, and then allowing them to remain there perpetually, never being heard. Think of the poor ‘l’ in ‘walk’ and ‘talk’. Whose idea was that anyway?
The Israelis apparently feel the same way. In an effort to honor their friends in the United States, they named one of the streets in Jerusalem after one of the greatest American presidents – President Lincoln. But they would not allow the ‘l’ in the middle of President Lincoln’s name to be forgotten, and so the street in Hebrew is called “רחוב לינקולין - Rechov Leenkolin”.
In the Torah there is no such concept as an added letter. In situations where a word is not pronounced as it is written, the commentators expend great effort to explain the hidden meaning and lesson behind the unconventional reading. Every nuance in the Torah contains deep endless meaning.
Silence surely has its place in Judaism. In a society which loves to slander, defame, and gossip, the laws of loshon hora and forbidden speech must weigh heavily on our minds.   But speaking up has its place in Judaism too.
Martin Luther King Jr. once quipped that in the end it is not the vitriolic words of our enemies that we will remember, but the painful silence of our friends.
If one studies the history of our national salvations, they all involved the assertive and intrepid confidence of heroic leaders who rallied the nation to their clarion call. During the perilous epoch of Haman, Mordechai urged Esther that the time was ripe for her to boldly appear before the king unannounced. He warned her that if she would be silent at that time the results could be calamitous for her and her entire family.
During the time prior to the Chanukah miracle it was the Maccebean cry of “Who is for G-d (gather) unto me!” that rallied the zealous and righteous to fight for their right to serve G-d.
Pesach was the result of the efforts of Moshe Rabbeinu. Despite his inarticulateness and his hesitation to be the spokesperson on behalf of his people, Moshe –together with Aharon – fulfilled his role, and led the nation to exodus.
Our Sages relate that a significant factor of the Egyptian servitude was that our speech was in exile. The torment was so great that they could not properly pray to G-d, they didn’t even know how to pray G-d. Ultimately G-d hearkened to their wordless cries. 
The redemption included a true freedom of speech and verbal expression. The Arizal relates that the name of the holiday Pesach is a contraction of the words ‘Peh sach – a soft mouth’. For so many decades the letters and words we wished to convey, the pain and anguish of our hearts which we pined to express, remained un-verbalized within us. But with the redemption our hearts found expression in the eloquence of song and prayer, our greatest tool as the Jewish People.
There is much pain in our world. Worse, so much of it is left unexpressed, hidden behind veils of fear to show others what is really in our hearts. The ability to express feelings, sympathize, and empathize is a facet of redemption.
In that sense, until Hashem is ready to send Moshiach and put an end to all suffering and pain, every one of us has the ability to be a redeemer – for friends, neighbors, and family members. May we all have the wisdom to find a voice – a voice of sweetness, love, and faith – for all the painful silence that still lingers within broken hearts. May we all be able to not only walk the walk, but also to tawk the tawk.

               Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
               R’ Dani and Chani Staum    


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