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    Not a word – Sh’mini

    A terrible moment for Aaron. His sons Nadav and Avihu had brought strange fire to the altar. In punishment God struck them dead.

    Aaron’s reaction? First, says Nachmanides, a loud cry of anguish, reaching the heavens… and then silence. No shouting at God, no screaming at God’s judgment. Silence.

    There are many moments when things take a tragic turn. We are perplexed and confused. Is it fair? How can God allow evil things to happen? There must be an explanation, and there are two ways of seeking it.

    One is to shout and demand that God justify Himself. But this approach does not work. God does not shout back, apologise or explain.

    The second approach is that of Aaron: vayiddom Aharon – “And Aaron kept his peace”.

    It is not that Aaron is indifferent or unmoved. On the contrary. But a person who wants an explanation does better to remain calm and think things through quietly.

    In the end the conclusion may be that though it is impossible for God to be irrational or capricious, the human mind is limited: it simply lacks the cosmic understanding to make sense of things that must have their place in God’s plan, but which are too baffling for those who are not and cannot be God.

    But the silence does not mean that we leave it at that. We cannot abdicate. We have no choice but to recognise the reality that something has happened, and, hard though it is, live with it and try to move on to the future.

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