“And Aaron was silent” (Leviticus 10:3).
This week’s Torah portion details the very disturbing death of Aaron’s sons. Aaron, Moses’ brother, has a very peculiar reaction: he was silent. Perhaps he was in shock? Perhaps there were no words to capture his grief? While we do not know why Aaron reacted the way he did, we do know that everyone reacts to personal tragedy differently. Silence seems like a strange reaction. Aaron should have screamed, wept or questioned Gd. But, no words or emotions came – and this puzzles some of us. But our job is not to question how others respond to personal tragedy. Our job is to support them as they come to terms with their loss.
When it comes to communal tragedy, however, silence is wrong. By communal tragedy, I mean an event that results in a significant loss for us all. The events that have unfolded in and around Israel over the past week and a half, including the brutal murder of the Fogel family, the renewed missile attacks from Gaza, the terrorist attack in Jerusalem, the actions taken by the UN’s Human Rights Commission against Israel and blatant anti-semitic remarks made in the media (including that dispersions cast yet again by Helen Thomas) comprise a communal tragedy that affects every single one of us. It is proof that hatred against the Jews and our right to exist is very much a part of the 21st century. And, as if the recent attacks against the Jewish people were not enough, the lack of accurate media coverage of these events coupled with the overwhelming global sentiment that Israel provokes violence from the “oppressed” Palestinian community increases the severity of thi! s communal tragedy.
For me, however, the worst part of this tragedy is the global Jewish response: silence.
Innocent Israeli children are being butchered in the their homes and terrorized by missiles in their playgrounds. And we sit by silently as the hate mongers continue to spew their venom and characterize Israel as the aggressor.
While we might not understand Aaron’s silence in this week’s Torah portion ˆ we are not able to understand his feelings and, therefore, we are not entitled to question his reaction.
We are obligated, however, to ask ourselves: why are we silent as Israel is being attacked? Do we not care? Are we unaware of what is going on? Do we feel disconnected from the Israeli people? Do we rely upon biased sources that teach us that Israel is in the wrong? Obviously, I can’t answer these questions for you. But I ask you to wrestle with them.
Jews need to stand up for each other. Nobody else is going to do so. Israel needs us now. Our silence condones the attacks.
Last week, we gathered together to shake our groggers and drown out the name of Haman ˆ the man who was determined to annihilate us all. Let’s not let our grogger shaking stop just because Purim is over. Educate yourselves, speak up, write letters, support Israel, talk to your family and friends and insure that together, we do everything we can to stop the hatred that continues to plaque our people.