Moishe Moment Shemini: Shh. Stop Talking.

"Crying baby...ringing cellphone...Please don't spoil the music by adding your own soundtrack. Silence is Golden" - AMC's feature film introduction video, of blessed memory, 2002-2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OpmDnV9E20

Who knew I'd be learning that same lesson in rabbinical school? If there's one thing I will take away from my studies when I graduate in 2020, it will be the word "WAIT." You might be wondering, "wait for what?" (You probably aren't, though, but I'll tell you anyway.) WAIT stands for "Why Am I Talking?"

It's one of the most important - and underrated - tools leaders like Moishe House residents and MHWOW hosts have already or can develop.

-->the ability to quiet myself,
-->to recognize when I am uncomfortable and sensing the need to battle that feeling with filler words,
-->to convey a message without words
-->to contract myself in order to make space for someone else.

This week when a divinely-ordained fire kills two of Aaron the High Priest's sons after they offer unsolicited sacrificial offerings, Aaron is silent.

וַיִּקְח֣וּ בְנֵֽי־אַ֠הֲרֹן נָדָ֨ב וַאֲבִיה֜וּא אִ֣ישׁ מַחְתָּת֗וֹ וַיִּתְּנ֤וּ בָהֵן֙ אֵ֔שׁ וַיָּשִׂ֥ימוּ עָלֶ֖יהָ קְטֹ֑רֶת וַיַּקְרִ֜בוּ לִפְנֵ֤י ה' אֵ֣שׁ זָרָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֧ר לֹ֦א צִוָּ֖ה אֹתָֽם׃ וַתֵּ֥צֵא אֵ֛שׁ מִלִּפְנֵ֥י ה' וַתֹּ֣אכַל אוֹתָ֑ם וַיָּמֻ֖תוּ לִפְנֵ֥י ה' וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֗ן הוּא֩ אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֨ר ה' ׀ לֵאמֹר֙ בִּקְרֹבַ֣י אֶקָּדֵ֔שׁ וְעַל־פְּנֵ֥י כָל־הָעָ֖ם אֶכָּבֵ֑ד וַיִּדֹּ֖ם אַהֲרֹֽן׃
And the sons of Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, took, each of them his coal-pan, and they put fire therein, and they laid incense thereon; and they offered before the L-rd a strange fire, which He had not commanded them. And a fire came out from before the L-rd and it consumed them, and they died before the L-rd. And Moses said to Aaron: This is what the L-rd spoke [(Exodus 29:43): "And I shall be appointed there (in the tent of meeting) for the children of Israel, venikdash bichvodi" — Read it "bimechubadai" (i.e., "and it will be sanctified by My honored ones")], saying: "With My near ones will I be sanctified, and before all the people will I be glorified." And Aaron kept his peace.

"Vayidom Aharon." His children are killed before his very eyes, and he neither has nor seeks any explanation for this tragedy. His reaction is silence. The boys' mother, Elisheva is nowhere to be found in this text, but I imagine that she, too, had no words.

But even without words, we know Aaron and Elisheva are feeling a level of pain that is nearly unfathomable. If they were your friends, family, or community members, how would you react? Would you feel the need to say the "right thing?" To make things better? Perhaps the best way to comfort those struggling is by meeting them where they are, and showing an open heart, compassionate eyes, and silent lips. And if you feel the need to say something, just remember one word: WAIT.