It’s too quiet. I feel like there is something off here. I might be imagining it but my sense is that the grief and rage I have right now, in the wake of the murderous shooting in Poway, feels like an overreaction in proportion to the seemingly muted responses and tepid voices of pro forma protest. Is it a symptom of some sort of protest fatigue? Could it be a numbness, like the silence of Aron the High priest after the death of his two sons that we read about in last week’s Torah portion?
What happened there? There is a lot of lively debate on this subject. One approach:
Nadav and Avihu made a choice to use the newly consecrated Mishkan (tabernacle in the wilderness) as a means of entering into a state of intense rapture. They may have been intoxicated or high as well. The double-edged chemical and spiritual high proved to be fatal. It could have even been intentional, who knows? Honestly, I’m not really sure what happened there. It feels like some sort of spiritually motivated suicide to me. That being the case, one could imagine the tortured silence of a parent, left to wonder where things went wrong.
One could also read this entire narrative as I am inclined to, as a reinforcement of a central pillar of Jewish life, especially in the light of Chasidic teachings, emphasizing the need to experience the Divine within human consciousness, not beyond it! So the silence of Aron is symbolic of how this approach is antithetical to Jewish thinking; constituting a silencing of G-d’s presence in the world rather than its magnification.
Lori Gilbert-Kaye personified the opposite. She loved Hashem and she loved life. She brought heaven down to earth every day of her life. She went to her Sanctuary, her Mishkan, to affirm the intrinsic goodness of life. She didn’t go to die.
Incredibly, the opening two words of this weeks Torah portion is Acharei Mot, literally translated as “after the death,” and it addresses, even more incredibly, the aftermath of the death of Aron’s sons. Unlike Aron however, we have no right to remain silent when a Jewish woman is gunned down in cold blood for going to shul.
Rabbi Yossi Lipsker leads Chabad of the North Shore.