Every person can be good, and better

Friday, 27 October, 2023 - 6:31 am

 I remained silent a lot in the past two weeks. 

I sat in silence and listened to the sights, the sounds, as well as to the calls, the cries, the prayers and the advice.

I remained silent because for the moment I feel so small in the face of the magnitude of the events, both the holocaust-like stories and the heroic ones. The horror stories and the stories of great courage.

The intensity of the Arab cruelty and evil, as opposed to the power of the spirit of unity and volunteering among the Jews.

I remained silent, also because somewhere in all of this our daughter Mussi got married (Mazel Tov!), and the confusion of feelings – the personal and familial joy juxtaposed with the national mourning – silences one.

“Aharon was silent.” So it says about Aharon Hacohen after the death of his two sons. I used to understand this as being heroic, but today I think it was simply the only option. Sometimes remaining silent is the best option.

Having said all this, I admit that I am amazed at the quantity of advice that almost all keyboard-pounders are sending out to the world: How to conquer and how to annihilate, how to win and how to save. Who must resign today, and who must continue tomorrow. On second thought, perhaps “Aharon was silent” is not a natural response for everybody.

I devoted much thought to the question of what I should do. There is nothing heroic that I can or know how to do. I have no way to prepare food for soldiers or send shoes to army outposts. I don’t even live in Israel, and even my rushing to get there won’t exactly aid the war effort.

Add to this that I was busy arranging an improvised family wedding, which is something private, and sometimes felt inappropriate.

But, pretty quickly, I understood that it’s not so terrible to remain silent. 

And pretty quickly, I understood that one doesn’t need to do something heroic or photogenic. 

It is possible to simply do good, be good.

How simple.

These are days when we ought to make even greater efforts before every word we speak, and certainly before every word we write – weighing it carefully to see whether it is divisive or unifying. Whether it strengthens and encourages or weakens and drains.

Every person can do good, and better.

Every person can be good, and better.

I started with the first task I was entrusted with and that was to put together a happy wedding for my daughter. And from there, while doing it, to respond to everything gently and pleasantly. Because that is what these days demand: gentleness and pleasantness. To be available as much as possible for those who want contact. To give what I can give to those who need me, and it doesn’t matter if he needs something while on army reserve duty or is just asking me a question at the train station. 

I don’t pretend to know what anyone should do. I’ll say only this: Do your jobs in the best way you can, in the calmest way you can. If what a child does usually earns an angry response or a scolding from you, this is the time to pause for a second and show compassion and gentleness. If in normal times the behavior of someone in the street produces from you a shout or expression of annoyance, well, these are not normal times. Respond to him with a smile. 

And remaining silent for a bit is an option, but only if one does not have an obligation to say anything.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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