Aaron's silence (Parshat Shmini)

Are you someone who is often silent?

When you are silent, what does it mean?

(א) וַיִּקְח֣וּ בְנֵֽי־אַ֠הֲרֹן נָדָ֨ב וַאֲבִיה֜וּא אִ֣ישׁ מַחְתָּת֗וֹ וַיִּתְּנ֤וּ בָהֵן֙ אֵ֔שׁ וַיָּשִׂ֥ימוּ עָלֶ֖יהָ קְטֹ֑רֶת וַיַּקְרִ֜בוּ לִפְנֵ֤י יי אֵ֣שׁ זָרָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֧ר לֹ֦א צִוָּ֖ה אֹתָֽם׃ (ב) וַתֵּ֥צֵא אֵ֛שׁ מִלִּפְנֵ֥י יי וַתֹּ֣אכַל אוֹתָ֑ם וַיָּמֻ֖תוּ לִפְנֵ֥י יי׃ (ג) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֗ן הוּא֩ אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֨ר יי ׀ לֵאמֹר֙ בִּקְרֹבַ֣י אֶקָּדֵ֔שׁ וְעַל־פְּנֵ֥י כָל־הָעָ֖ם אֶכָּבֵ֑ד וַיִּדֹּ֖ם אַהֲרֹֽן׃

(1) Now Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his fire pan, put fire in it, and laid incense on it; and they offered before God alien fire, which He had not enjoined upon them. (2) And fire came forth from God and consumed them; thus they died at the instance of God. (3) Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what God meant when He said: Through those near to Me I show Myself holy, And gain glory before all the people.”

And Aaron was silent.

לָכֵ֗ן הַמַּשְׂכִּ֛יל בָּעֵ֥ת הַהִ֖יא יִדֹּ֑ם כִּ֛י עֵ֥ת רָעָ֖ה הִֽיא׃

Assuredly, at such a time the prudent man keeps silent, For it is an evil time.

(יב) אָ֣ז יְדַבֵּ֤ר יְהוֹשֻׁעַ֙ לַֽיי בְּי֗וֹם תֵּ֤ת יי אֶת־הָ֣אֱמֹרִ֔י לִפְנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ׀ לְעֵינֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל שֶׁ֚מֶשׁ בְּגִבְע֣וֹן דּ֔וֹם וְיָרֵ֖חַ בְּעֵ֥מֶק אַיָּלֽוֹן׃

(12) On that occasion, when God routed the Amorites before the Israelites, Joshua addressed God; he said in the presence of the Israelites: “Stand still, O sun, at Gibeon, O moon, in the Valley of Aijalon!”

וידום אהרן (ויקרא י, ג). קיבל שכר על השתיקה כו' (זבחים קטו, ב). ומזה ילמוד כל אדם לבל ימאוס במוסר יי ויקבל באהבה:

וידום אהרן . Aaron received a reward for his silence in 10:3 when God spoke to him exclusively in 10:9. We are to learn from this that we must accept with love what appear to be God's strictures and afflictions.

(based on Rashi's interpretation of Zevachim 115b and Leviticus Rabbah 12:2)

וטעם וידום אהרן שהיה בוכה בקול ואז שתק או כטעם ואל תדום בת עינך (איכה ב יח):

"And Aaron was silent"- This means that he had cried aloud, but then he became silent. Or perhaps the meaning thereof is as in the verse, "let not your eyes ‘tidom’ (cease)." (Lamentations 2:18). (i.e., Aaron ceased to shed tears)

Rabbi Eliezer Diamond - Aaron's Silence http://www.jtsa.edu/aarons-silence

"There is, I believe, another possibility as well. Perhaps Aaron's silence was a form of disengagement, in at least two senses. The first may have been an emotional reaction beyond his control. The horror of what had occurred was so great that Aaron's mind may have shut down, thereby blanking out what had befallen his sons. Perhaps it was only in this way that he could bear the pain of his loss at that moment.

It may also be, however, that Aaron's silence was a means of disengaging from his persona as priest. How difficult it must have been for Aaron to serve God in the very place where that same God had taken the lives of two of his children. Aaron continued his holy work, but there was some part of him that was now silent, that did not turn to God in prayer and praise as it did in the past. The fire that killed Aaron's sons had wounded him profoundly as well."

עֵ֤ת לִקְר֙וֹעַ֙ וְעֵ֣ת לִתְפּ֔וֹר עֵ֥ת לַחֲשׁ֖וֹת וְעֵ֥ת לְדַבֵּֽר׃
A time for ripping and a time for sewing, A time for silence and a time for speaking;