Parashat Shemini: “Vayidom Aharon.” Aaron was silent, says the text. Was it shocked silence? Perhaps. Or, perhaps, it was silence which results from the depth of one’s emotions, too overwhelming to express in words?
Listen to Rabbi Dr. Reb Mimi Feigelson, Mashpiah Ruchanit (Spiritual Mentor) and senior lecturer of Rabbinics and Chassidic Thought at the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary powerful input on why Aaron remained silent when his sons perished in the fire.
Full transcript below:
What hasn’t been said about Parshat Shemini? Nadav and Avihu offering fire and Aaron’s silence.
I want to propose two possibilities. One actually is the teaching of Rabbi Levi of Berditchev who claims that they weren’t punished. Imagine; deep-sea fish surfacing and they’ll explode? It is not because of a punishment but because they can’t be contained in shallow water. If Shallow fish go down they’ll explode, there’s no way they can exist. It’s not a punishment if you’re deep-sea or shallow water, you just can’t mix and mingle.
The realm of spirits is the same as well. For Rabbi Levi of Berditchev it’s not a punishment. It is the reality of being burnt out like the orchard. Now what are we going to do? That’s the question. Aaron’s silence: why was he silent? I don’t actually believe that it has to do with accepting God’s decree.
I want to pose a different reading. You don’t have to agree with me, I ask you to embrace it for a moment, to listen, to think about it. One possibility is to think that Aaron is silent because he’s actually really proud of his sons. They had a moment where knew that they could be face to face with God, and they seized the moment and they took it and they ran in. How could you not? They had a moment and they ran into the Holy of Holies to die in God’s presence.
Aaron is so proud of his sons, that they didn’t hesitate. They understood that moment of his silence as maybe he is proud, maybe jealous, maybe he has to stay back for some responsibilities. Maybe they are a little jealous, maybe proud and maybe angry because as a parent he didn’t protect them. He didn’t teach them that is true that there are moments like that, but the price though for those moments is so high, and perhaps Aaron was sorry for a moment that he didn’t teach them to hold back so he could have had them free at another moment.
Reb Mimi serves as the Mashpiah Ruchanit (spiritual mentor) of the Rabbinical School, and teaches Talmud and Hassidic Thought. She will guide and walk with the rabbinical students on their personal-spiritual journeys. She served as the Mashpiah Ruchanit of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles for the last 16 years. Prior to this Reb Mimi was one of the founding administration and faculty members of the “Yakar” Beit Midrash and community.