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Post Sandy Reflections- The Sounds of Silence

11/09/2012 12:09:29 PM


  Two weeks ago during the shul's Orchos Tzaddikim Shiur, we spoke about the midda of shetikah, of silence. At the time I mentioned two different perspectives as to why Chazal were so enamored with this quality of silence.
    One reason is that silence reflects a certain sense of awe and respect for a person/ place or event. There are moments in life when we are called upon to be outspoken or jocular and other times when we simply need to bow our heads and recognize our own relative smallness in the general scheme of things. The other value of silence is simply that a person should train himself to listen silently to the reflections or even criticisms of the multitudes that surround him. Sad and underdeveloped is the individual who always feels the need to be defensive and to respond back. Silence and humility are the cornerstones of a life that is reflective and growth oriented.
    This past week, we unfortunately all had another opportunity to reflect on another dimension of silence. I often ruminate on the inability of words to fully convey the depth of a certain feeling. I'm not sure if the word 'love' fully conveys the feeling that a husband has for his wife when he is lying on his deathbed after spending 60-70 years living and raising a family together. Sometimes a meaningful look or an embrace somehow speak volumes more than words themselves. Likewise, the words sanctity and spirituality somehow fall short in conveying what genuine religious passion and yearning feels and tastes like.
  In that same vein, the concept of hakaras HaTov, or saying 'thank you', a phrase that most people utter 30-40 times a day, seems empty and trite when utilized in circumstances that feel somehow larger and deeper than standard daily interactions. As many of you know, my brother's son was near death a couple years back because of a faulty liver until, miraculously, he received a transplant from another child who was dying. As my nephew went through the months of recovery, my brother began the almost impossible process of writing a letter to the parents of the deceased child trying to somehow 'thank' them and acknowledge that their losing their child allowed for the saving of my nephew Shai's life. The situation called for 'thanks', but at the same time does thanking a person or a group truly convey the depths of certain feelings.
    I find myself in a similar situation this evening. As I have said many times there are few jobs, if any, that allow for the type of satisfaction that the Rabbinate affords in the sense that it allows for a continuous window into man's basic goodness. That goodness is often on full display, but no more so than this past week. I have been bombarded with calls, e-mails and texts from every corner of Wesley Hills and Pomona asking 'who needs help, who needs money, who needs a place to stay, who needs a generator, a ride, food, a hug, - anything'. I can't  tell you how many people told me that they themselves had no power or heat but that they felt that they still wanted to do something. Of course my experience, and the response of KBY and Wesley Hills, was not unique in that the response of the larger community to Sandy, both Jewish and Non- Jewish, has been nothing short of astonishing. Without sounding trite, as overwhelming and devastating as the storm has been, the basic kindness and goodness feels equally overwhelming and life affirming.
    There are no words that can fully convey that sense of hakaras Hatov. There is no way to fully articulate the feeling of 'mi k'amcha Yisroel', no way to convey the sense of awe that one feels when they reflect on the basic goodness of a collective community. Words fall short, but are  all that we have, in lieu of a general embrace of the exceptional larger Jewish community that we are blessed to be a part of. With every problem that exists both in klal Yisroel and beyond, let us take great pride in who we are and what we stand for both as Americans and Jews.
    We should continue to strive to live lives of generosity. A generosity that might rise to the fore and become crystallized and sharpened in moments of tragedy, but that should be no less  omnipresent during days of tranquility. Every day, and especially every birth and every death in a community, whether it be experienced and marked by stranger and friend alike, should illicit a reaction of 'what can I do, how can I stand up and be counted.'
    We should continue to feel connected to, and daven for, the tens of thousands whose lives have become devastated in the past ten days. The G-d of mercy should bring comfort to all of those who seek a Refuas HaNefesh u'Refuas HaGuf.

Thank you all again for often being sources of inspiration in the lives of our family. I look forward to warm (both literally and figuratively) and joyous moments together in the future.

R' Blass

Fri, May 7 2021 25 Iyyar 5781