Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Silence of Giving

I heard a beautiful mashal recently; I wanted to tell it over to all of you. After all, this is the parsha in which we learn vayidom Aharon- and Aaron was silent.


Once upon a time there was a King. He ruled his land justly and well and wisely and acted with compassion toward all. His kingdom was made up of many city-states, and in each city state there were rulers who were his vassals. They pledged allegiance to him, but were able to create many laws and rule their lands so long as they did not impugn upon his authority.

One of these city-state kings had a daughter. She was a beautiful princess, clever and quick-witted, always interested in learning about the world. She was taught to reign in her kingdom, taught the ways of her people, their customs and culture, and she absorbed it all with pleasure and enjoyment.

A different city-state king had a son. He was a handsome prince who was also taught to rule. He used to walk through the streets and accustom himself with the people and their ways, learning about them and their habits, in order to ensure that he would rule well.

It was the custom that at different periods during their training, the respective princes and princesses would go on a tour of the realm in order to learn about different people and their particular cultures. It was on one such tour that the prince and the princess met, and fascinated by each others' differences and similarities, they became friends. They learned much from one another, and enjoyed one another's company.

The King of the entire realm watched this with approval. He even brought the two to his court, where he ensured that they would have access to the royal scrolls and treasury, allowing them a rare honor. However, after a time, he summoned the prince to himself and informed him, "On pain of death- her death, not yours-, you are not permitted to speak to the princess anymore."

The prince wished to object but the King explained, "You were raised for different purposes, to rule different lands. You have learned what you could from one another, now you must return to your respective kingdoms and rule them individually. Should you try to annex them, you would fail, as their ways are too different, their cultures too far apart. You have a duty to your kingdom, and she to hers."

The prince did not want to immediately sever all ties with the princess. He thought that this would be unkind, and likely to be misinterpreted as cruel. He therefore was very careful to wait until she had returned to her home kingdom, where she would be near her family and friends, before initiating an unusual silence, where he did not speak with her nor communicate with her. It was very painful for him, but he wanted to give her the chance to sever contact with him rather than do so himself. Thus she need not feel rejected.

Unbeknownst to the prince, the King had issued the same directive regarding silence to the princess. When the prince did not speak with her or otherwise send a messenger to her, she took it as a good omen. And so she penned a missive which she sent to the prince explaining that she too must keep silence from now on, as it was the only way to spare him.

Such a silence is considered the silence of giving. Each thought only for the other; therefore, their silence is precious before God.


To explain: The King is God. The prince and the princess might be any two people who converse with one another on a regular basis. But there are certain laws that God creates where he forbids conversation on certain topics; for example, there are the laws of lashon hara. When it comes to such situations, there is a penalty for both the one speaking and the one listening. But there are other times where there are simple ideas that one person may be ready to hear and another person will not; it will throw the other person into immense doubt and confusion. In such a case, when someone keeps silent despite desiring to speak, it is considered a silence of giving, because they care more for the other person's well-being than they do their own need to be heard.

In the case of Aharon, he did not need to be silent necessarily. But his silence indicated that he took the Divine decree and accepted it; he would not fight it. In this case, it is a silence of giving, because it would have been understandable for him to mourn or cry or fight against God, but he chose instead to allow the honor of God to prevail. He cared more for God's honor than for his own need to be heard; thus, he was silent. Thus, in a way, he gave to God; he gave himself and dedicated himself as His servant.

Thus it is said, in Proverbs 29:11:

יא כָּל-רוּחוֹ, יוֹצִיא כְסִיל; וְחָכָם, בְּאָחוֹר יְשַׁבְּחֶנָּה.
11 A fool spendeth all his spirit; but a wise man stilleth it within him.

There are times when to be silent is to give to someone; this is the highest form of love as described by Rabbi Dessler.


Ezzie said...

*Great* post.

Anonymous said...

And of course there is a time when to be silent is a cop-out. It's knowing which is which that's the challenge.
Joel Rich