This week, Aaron was silent. Aaron, whose sons died “at the instance of the Lord” for offering alien fire, was silent. That was how his mourning manifested itself.
Too often, however, we are silent for the wrong motivation. It used to be that the word “cancer” wasn’t spoken out loud — or at least not in full voice and not without the accompaniment of spitting — lest the speaker be cursed with it. It used to be that adoption wasn’t spoken of out loud as though that act leaned more toward “shonda” than “mitzvah.” It used to be that many subjects were “not [to be spoken] in front of the children.” It even used to be that Jews didn’t have addictions — or at least they weren’t spoken of out loud (and if they were, they were certainly more likely to be “safe” like alcoholism and gambling than “darker” addictions).
Today, it is not only Israeli Jews that have fulfilled Ben Gurion’s dream of being like every other nation — in this case plagued with the same afflictions — and we cannot afford to be silent.
How proud we should be of
Sharsheret, which gives women and their loved ones a place to turn for support and information about breast cancer. We should be grateful for the work of Jewish Alcoholics and Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others (JACS). Look at our own Jewish Domestic Abuse Task Force and its recent work toward bringing tragically growing statistics and stories of dating violence into earshot.
Being silent doesn’t make illness and addictions and abuse go away; it just hides them. During the omer, we no longer bring an offering of barley; but we do study Pirke Avot and recognize that, paraphrasing Hillel, the time is now to be for ourselves and for others.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)