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Parsha Shemini

04/12/2018 07:04:08 PM


After Nadav and Avihu’s deaths spoiled the Mishan’s festive inaugural festivities, the Torah describes Aron’s reaction to this tragedy in two words- וַיִּדֹּם אַהֲרֹן.  In his commentary to Torah, Onkelos translates the words to mean that Aharon was silent, an interpretation that most Rishonim use in their commentaries.  Simply understood, Aron did not question God or complain about his emotional turmoil, as he rather submissively accepted the tragedy as being God’s will.  

However, there are other contexts where the word vayidom reflects different connotations.  In the Gemara in Gitin 7a, Mar Ukva complains to Rav Elazar about people mistreating him and distressing him.  Rav Elazar refers him to the verse in Tehillim 37: דּ֚וֹם֙ | לַֽיהֹוָה֘ וְהִתְח֪וֹלֵ֫ל ל֥וֹ- wait silently for God and long for him, and offers a variant homiletical understanding of the verse.  דּ֚וֹם֙ | לַֽיהֹוָה֘- Seek God, (as a verb form of term דמדומי חמה- the redness of the sun and the ideal time for prayer) וְהִתְח֪וֹלֵ֫ל ל֥וֹ- and God will fell them for you corpse upon corpse. (a derivation of the word חלל)  Rav Elazar advises Mar Ukva to deal with his adversaries by taking his issues to God and praying that his adversaries be defeated, and this advise was all based on an understanding of דּ֚וֹם֙ meaning to seek and talk to God.  

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos 3:2 says: מִנַּיִן שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ אֶחָד שֶׁיּוֹשֵׁב וְעוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה, שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא קוֹבֵעַ לוֹ שָׂכָר, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (איכה ג) יֵשֵׁב בָּדָד וְיִדֹּם כִּי נָטַל עָלָיו: From where [is there proof that] that even [when there is only] one [person studying Torah], the Holy One, blessed be He, determines a reward for him? As it is said: “He sits alone and is silent, for he takes [a reward] for it.”  In this context, וְיִדֹּם does denote silence, as the solitary man has no study partner and is not communicating with anyone else, but וְיִדֹּם here hardly reflects a passive or submissive state.  To the contrary, וְיִדֹּם is the word used for the proactive state of studying Torah, albeit with hushed tones and solitary state.  

The idea of studying Torah alone is generally discouraged, (Tannis 7a) and yet here the Mishna teaches that despite it not being ideal, solitary Torah study is sill worthy of reward.  While the ideal is communication and clear articulation, there are times when studying with a partner can be a frustrating experience when one does not feel fully understood or appreciated.  Furthermore, there are certain Torah thoughts that are difficult to formulate into words and yet remain an invaluable part of one’s individual creativity and input to God’s Torah.  יֵשֵׁב בָּדָד וְיִדֹּם is for times when one feels understood by none, and wishes to take a few moments to study alone and channel his thoughts and emotions directly to God.  It means quiet in the sense that it is private, but it also connotes a sense of revelation and deep personal connection with the Almighty.  Our general practice is to speak things out and interact with others in the way we approach God, but certain times remain when one can use the יֵשֵׁב בָּדָד וְיִדֹּם method of realizing that ultimately, only God fully appreciates and understands our thoughts and emotions. 

In his commentary Pirush Hamishnayos to that Mishna in Pirkei Avos, the Rambam likens this word וְיִדֹּם to the וַיִּדֹּם אַהֲרֹן, showing that וַיִּדֹּם אַהֲרֹן does not mean an absolute acceptance from Aron’s stance where he did not “deal” with his emotions.  וַיִּדֹּם אַהֲרֹן means that Aron was silent in the sense that he felt others could not understand the pain and meaning of the tragedy, and he privately took his emotions to God.  It was a moment of revelation to Aron, a moment of being understood by no one besides the Almighty.  Chazal say that in reward for וַיִּדֹּם אַהֲרֹן, the next laws of the Torah were taught directly to Aron instead of going first to Moshe as they usually did.  The personal revelation continued, evolving from moments of sharing pain with God to hearing Torah privately from God.  וַיִּדֹּם may mean silence, but it is a proactive silence where one is so in touch with the depths of private thoughts and pain that it feels only natural to turn to God.  

Wed, June 26 2019 23 Sivan 5779