Adrian A. Durlester

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Random Musing Before Shabbat
etzaveh 5766 - Silent Yet Present

(This musing is a re-working of my 5759 musing for Tetzaveh, "Someone's Missing." )

Hmm, let' see. Aaron. Nadav. Avihu. Eleazar. Ithamar. Again Aaron. More Aaron. Lots more Aaron. More Aaron than we know what to do with.

But one name is conspicuously absent. Moshe. Where'd he go? Well, if we go back to the beginning of T'rumah, and consider that there is pretty much one continuous discourse by G"d to Moses from Exodus 25:1 to 30:10, we see that Moshe is indeed there, but silent and not mentioned. Why?

Well, there's the explanation of the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Shlomo Zalman, that this is prescient of Moshe's death, which occurred around the time of year Tetzaveh is usually read. Nice idea, but not where I'm headed.

There's always those historical-critical theories, Wellhausen's JEDP concept of multiple strands of authorship. That's not where I'm headed either.

We could consider some other possible meanings:

G"d reminding us that we wouldn't always have Moshe around to deal with things.

G"d reminding us that these instructions aren't just for Moshe, but for all of us.

G"d reminding us that no matter how important we think we are, we're not indispensable.

G"d reminding us that all of us are important.

All possibilities. But not the one that jumped out at me. My idea is that G"d is telling us simply to "shut up and listen." That's one darn long oratory by G"d from the start of T'rumah to the end of Tetzaveh. But Moses says not a word. In this way, he sets a great example for us.

If I were to begin to describe my own faults, one that would leap to the front would be that I'm not a great listener. I often interrupt and can't seem to refrain from "putting in my oar." If I had to stand around for that whole time, listening to that long set of instructions from G"d, I doubt I could have remained silent the whole time. "But...." I would have said, or "How can we...." or "hang on a second, you want us to what?" or "two rams? why two? wouldn't three be better?" or "a BLUE ephod cover? Blue? Do you know how hard it is to make BLUE?" or "hey, you gotta explain this Urim and Thummim thing to me." I suspect G"d would have grown so annoyed with my constant interruptions, I'd wind up suffering the fate that Nadav and Avihu would soon suffer. (Remember, they get toasted by G"d for a well-meaning but unsolicited sacrifice.)

Yet Moshe, he just stood there and listened. (Or maybe he was passive-aggressive, and he let his emotions out later? I can just picture it. He takes Aaron and Miriam aside and says to them: "My G"d, oops, excuse me for that, I thought I was gonna die of boredom from that speech! Could you believe it? Who does he think he is, G"d or something? Whoops, he is...well, NEVERMIND," and thus Moshe goes off muttering under his breath.)

I'm rationalizing. I'm trying to picture Moshe as imperfect as myself. Clearly Moshe had his faults. But being a bad listener was NOT one of them. (The one thing that gets him in dutch with G"d later on isn't a case of not listening, it's a case of not following the directions exactly right-doing more than told-hmmm-somewhat like Nadav and Avihu. There's a parallel I never caught before. Remind me when we get to Chukat.)

Our sacred texts are not silent about silence.

"Even a fool, if he keeps silent, is deemed wise; Intelligent, if he seals his lips." (Proverbs 17:28)

"The vehicle for wisdom is silence." (Talmud: Avot 3:13)

"When two quarrel, they see which becomes silent first and say: This one is of superior birth." (Talmud Kiddushin 71b)

Always speaking out seems to be about "Me! Me! Me! I want to be heard! I want things to be my way!" Silence is about us, about relationship - both the I-you and the I-You (G"d) type. Yes, there is a time to speak up and speak out. Yet it is, in most situations, not all the time.

We live in a crazy, busy, fast-paced society. Sometimes, in order to feel like our voice is being heard, we feel like we have to speak out at the same time as others. And so we have all this babble. (Hmm, here's another parallel...) There's so much going on at once, we can't comprehend it all, can't remember it. If we don't speak out at the exact moment when it is in our mind, we'll forget it. So everybody is talking and no one is listening. No way to run a society.

And how much more so in this day and age need we keep our silence when listening for G"d? I've little doubt that G"d could make G"d's self heard if that is what G"d wanted. After all, G"d gives this whole long diatribe through T'rumah and Tetzaveh! Yet even G"d knows that using the big. booming "voice of G"d" a lot might not be the best thing. When You've got a voice that loud, You really do need to keep silent, not even whisper, if You expect to hear the miniscule utterings of Your creations. So when done talking, G"d shuts up and listen. We'd do well to learn to be b'tzelem El"him in that regard.

Moshe, and, I presume, the whole of Israel, stood quietly and listened to God's entire discourse through T'rumah and Tetzaveh. It's an example we could do well to follow these days. For only through our own silence will we be truly able to hear what others are saying, and maybe, just maybe, we'll also be able to hear that kol d'mamah dakah, that still small voice. Unlike so many who have abandoned any hope that G"d still interacts with us, I still believe. Maybe if I, if we all, could just "shut up and listen" we might have that faith rewarded. Ken y'hi ratson. Ken y'hi ratsoneinu.

To each and every one of you, a quiet Shabbat of listening.

Shabbat Shalom,

©1999 and 2006 by Adrian A. Durlester

Some Previous Musings on the Same Parasha

Tetzaveh 5765 and 5761-Aharon's Bells
Tetzaveh 5764-Shut Up and Listen!
Tetzaveh 5763-House Guest
Tetzaveh 5762 (Redux 5760)-The Urim and Thummim Show
Tetzaveh 5758-Something Doesn't Smell Quite Right

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