My wife is convinced that I need our dog’s “help” to shovel the snow. Unfortunately, Pip doesn’t realize that he is outside to help. He believes that we are outside to play. He thinks the shovel is a toy and, he does what dogs do when they want to play; he barks, non-stop, and shockingly loud for such a sweet boy. I can’t complain about Mommy’s baby or send him back inside because his Mommy’s bite is worse than Pip’s bark.
I want some quiet. I love to hear the shovel scraping the ground and scooping the powdery snow. There are few people outside. The streets are still. I am working, but I am relaxing. I need the silence, just to hear my own thoughts.
I can understand why “Kolot”, loud noises, characterizes the plague of Hail. People often miss that the Slaying of the First Born is portrayed as causing screaming and crying in Egyptian neighborhoods and absolute quiet in the Jewish areas; not even a Pip barked. The Egyptians were assaulted by noise. The Jews were blessed with silence. The world of both nations was changing. The Egyptians were not afforded an opportunity to reflect on all the lessons assaulting them. They did not have any thinking space. The Egyptians could not change or repent. Those things demand a certain silence, and they, had none.
The Jews had silence. They broke that silence only when they began to share their stories with each other and their children. They had enough quiet time to think. They could contemplate their new realities.
Ezekiel makes us think when he discusses Lessons to Be Learned. Table Talkoffers some important perspectives on what the Egyptians were to learn from the Plagues. Our daily Podcasts on the Portion of the Week offer material for reflection, and Chassidic Moments provide food for silent thought, and Chovot Halevavot remind us that the Evil Inclination uses a great deal of noise to confuse us. Rabbi Irwin Katsof reflects on the role of silence in Being A Human Day. Dr. Menachem HaCohen, in what we silently pray will be a regular column;Occasional Keystrokes from Medical Arches, describes the confusion of the beeps and rings of life-support machines and the challenge of silent reflection necessary to make the most difficult decision in When To Ask. We have also posted some new Kavanot for Sim Shalom and Al HaTzaddikim and Avot to use in the silent Amidah, together with new ideas to incorporate into Pesukei D’zimrah. We took this idea of silence a little too far with the poor volume of the classes onDa’at Tevunot and Da’at Tefillah. We are trying to enhance the volume, but not too much!
Sharing a moment of silent reflection with you, my friends, I remain,
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg