Last night I was invited to celebrate the Holiday of Sukkot in the company of some dear friends. We had dinner in their Sukkah. I also learned a great lesson, the lesson of the impact of silence
Through their invitation and my acceptance of it, we all engaged in the honorable duty to perform a Mitzvah. The Mitzvah is a twofold one. As prescribed in Deuteronomy 16:14, “You shall rejoice in your festival—you, your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, the Levite, the stranger, the orphan and the widow who are within your cities.” I fulfilled the duty of sitting in the Sukkah. My hosts - in welcoming me and others.
In addition to inviting earthly guests to the Sukkah, Am Yisrael, according to tradition, also earns the privilege to host seven transcendent guests. They are the seven founding fathers of Am Israel, Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe Aharon, Yosef and David, the seven Ushpizin (Aramaic for “guests”). Each of these founding fathers visits us during one of the seven nights and days of Sukkot. And so we come to the titular lesson of this article
As each of these Ushpizin graces our sukkah each night and day of Sukkot, he sanctions and empowers us with the particular quality that defines him. Together, they nourish our spiritual essence with their gifts. Avraham feeds us benevolence; Yitzchak, restraint; Yaakov bestows upon us harmony and truth; and so on.
On the fifth Day of Sukkot, the presence of Aharon, the brother of Moshe graces our Sukkah with his heavenly sanctification. Aharon’s quality according to tradition is defined as humility.
Aharon was Moshe’s older brother, the first - born who, in Biblical times, had special rights. In his great modesty, Aharon did not argue with G-d when He selected Moshe, the younger, the stutterer to lead Am Yisrael out of Egypt. Instead, humble Aharon was there next to Moshe and served him loyally.
It was, however, the unfortunate tragedy that befell Aharon which yielded us the great lesson of the importance of silence. The Book of Leviticus chapters 9-11 recounts the events that led to the death of his two sons during the last stages of celebrating the dedication of the Mishkan, the holy Tabernacle. Moshe tried to console Aharon, but as the Torah tells us "וידום אהרן " (and Aharon became silent, Leviticus 10:3).
The gift of upholding silence during certain moments in Life and History is very powerful and rather rare. Language and the spoken word are a great tool in communication, understanding and sharing with each other. Silence, on the other hand, is our means to connect with G-d and the universe that surrounds us. Silence and its unspoken message can sometimes be more prevailing, potent and expressive than any words we utter. We were witness to it a few days ago when our Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the U.N.I will not address the content of his speech. Others have brilliantly engaged at dissecting and analyzing it. I prefer to dwell on the forty - five seconds of his silence. During those long moments, he said more than during the lengthy speech that he gave. The deafening stillness of his pause cut like a sharp knife through the thick blinding fog that has been shrouding the U.N. for many years. It seemed to have paralyzed those present. More importantly, it sent a strong message to the world, a double message. The first is that Am Yisrael will not stand silently as the world did and continues to do in the face of ongoing threats to annihilate us. We will speak up, we will protest, we will make our voice heard and do whatever it takes to defend ourselves. The second is that we will also practice the gift of the power of silence to get our message through and across, as did Netanyahu in his U.N. speech last week
The day Benjamin Netanyahu delivered this powerful lesson to the world coincided with the fifth Day of Sukkot, the day Jews are blessed with the spiritual gracious visit of our forefather Aharon.
How refreshing it was to learn that Aharon’s eternal gift of Silence was not wasted.