Let’s Talk About Silence

Between Us

Here are three ways to Make it Yours this week:

  • Volunteer with Mitzvah Mavens on Sunday, November 16.
  • Join the Maryland/Israel Development Center at Partners in Innovation on Tuesday, November 18.
  • Read about how local Jewish leaders are coming together during this challenging time surrounding the arrest of Rabbi Barry Freundel.

Good morning,

This week’s parasha, Vayeira, is filled with action, dialogue, suspense and most intriguing of all…silence. One of the most famous scenes of the Torah – the Akedah, the Binding of Isaac, takes place in this week’s reading. We are struck by the silence. In contrast to Abraham’s vehement argument with God early in the reading to save the people of Sodom, he is peculiarly quiet when later commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. And what of Isaac’s silence? Not only does he not object to being bound and nearly killed, but afterward, the Torah does not record another conversation between father and son.

One of my earliest memories of a popular song is Paul Simon’s 1964 classic, “The Sounds of Silence.” As someone with a life-long hearing loss, I am fascinated by the dichotomy of silence and sound; the absence of noise and the fullness of understanding. Countless commentaries have been written on the Akedah, all seeking meaning from this difficult lesson about faith. Some have written about meaning in the silence as well, claiming that Abraham’s silence indicated that he was so deeply focused on his relationship with God that it enabled him to hear the voice of the angel commanding him not to harm Isaac. At times, silence can enable us to hear what’s really important. But silence is not an acceptable strategy for dealing with the world around us.

There’s so much about which we CANNOT be silent: the threats facing Israel and Jewish communities around the world and the growing disconnect between too many in the Diaspora and world Jewry; advocacy for full inclusion of those with disabilities in our Jewish community; the needs of Holocaust survivors right here in the DC area; helping young families create meaningful and relevant Jewish lives for themselves; the importance of reaching out to interfaith families; engaging young adults in building their Jewish community; finding solutions to the rising cost of Jewish education and camping and much more.

Join The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington in speaking out and taking action on each of these issues. This is our community. Make it Yours.

And, perhaps, “…the words of the prophets [will indeed be] written on the subway walls and tenement halls…and whispered in the sounds of silence.

Shabbat Shalom,

Steven A. Rakitt, Chief Executive Officer  
[email protected]