What Silence SaysMarch 19, 2014 - 5:00 am
Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: ‘Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honoured.’” Aaron remained silent. — Leviticus 10:3
The Torah portion for this week is Shemini, which means “eighth,” from Leviticus 9:1–11:47, and the Haftorah is from 2 Samuel 6:1–7:17.
Sometimes in life we struggle to find the right words to say. However, at other times, the challenge is to say nothing at all. In this week’s Torah portion, we read about one of those times.
It was the eighth day of the Tabernacle’s inauguration in what should have been the most joyous day of Aaron’s life. He had been anointed as the High Priest, and the first offerings he made to God had been consumed by a divine fire sent from the heavens. The day marked the beginning of divinely ordained worship that connected humanity to God in a way never before experienced, and Aaron stood at the forefront.
Then, in the midst of the celebrations, tragedy struck. Aaron’s two sons, among the most righteous men of their generation, came before God with an offering. And because they did so without permission or authority, they were killed instantly.
If ever there was a time to express outrage, this was the time. If ever a person had reason to complain to God, this was the time. However, Scripture tells us, “Aaron remained silent.” Aaron’s silence was more eloquent than a thousand words.
The Sages explain that Aaron’s silence was an expression of acceptance. Aaron could have argued with God; he could have complained about his tragic lot on what should have been a joyous occasion. But his silence implied that he did not question God’s ways. As incomprehensible as they might seem, Aaron accepted that God’s ways were just and good – no matter what.
From where did Aaron obtain this almost super-human ability to trust unwaveringly in God?
Take a look at Aaron’s life experiences. Imagine young Aaron growing up a slave in Egypt. As a child he learned that Pharaoh had issued a decree that all baby boys were to be drowned in the Nile River. His mother became pregnant and gave birth to a son. Aaron must have wondered how God could allow a baby to be born only to be killed so cruelly. It all seemed so tragic, so wrong!
However, Aaron also witnessed how his mother, in order to keep her infant son alive, placed him in a basket afloat on the river. The baby was then discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter, who took him home and raised him as her own son in Pharaoh’s palace. This child eventually became the saviour of Israel. What had seemed like a terrible tragedy became a great blessing!
Through his silence, Aaron teaches us a powerful lesson for our lives. We don’t always see the big picture and we can’t understand God’s ways. But God is always good, “his way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). We might not understand God’s ways, but our silence expresses our faith in Him.