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    Sounds of silence

    One of the poetical passages during Musaf Eleh Ezkerah, “These Do I Remember” – describes the martyrdom of ten rabbis executed by the Romans for teaching the Torah.

    There is an agonising cry to God, “How can this be fair? Is this religion, and is this its reward?”

    God’s reply is stern and uncompromising: “Silence! Not one word more, or I will turn the world back to water!”

    The silence God requires cannot be a silence of assent or consent. It is a silence of awe, when it is impossible to speak.

    It is the silence of Aaron the high priest when his sons were struck dead for desecrating the Holy Place: Vayyidom Aharon, “And Aaron was silent” (Lev. 10:3).

    Rabbi Shlomo Riskin tells of the circumcision of a child whose father was killed in the Yom Kippur War. Rabbi Riskin recalls reading the words of Ezekiel 16:6, B’damayich chayi b’damayich chayi, “By your blood shall you live, by your blood shall you live”.

    He observes, “I thought to myself that damayich can mean ‘your blood’ and can also mean ‘silence’ (vayyidom Aharon) – by your silence shall you live”.

    We reveal ourselves when we speak; we are revealed when we are silent.

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