“… and Aharon was silent”
During the ceremony of the dedication of the Mishkan, Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aharon, were struck by fire from Shamayim and died. Aharon accepted the judgment in silence. Did he not have what to say? Did he deserve such a severe punishment at this joyous time?
The HaKsav V’Hakabalah explains that sometimes silence is a form of praise to Hashem. If a person is quiet when he accepts the judgment it is considered as though he is glorifying Hashem on the highest level. This is a tribute to Aharon that he had absolutely no complaints and no comments on what had just transpired.
Why does the Torah use the term “vayidom” instead of the more common “vayishtok” to express his silence?
The Bais Aharon comments that all of creation is comprised of four different levels of existence. The “domaim” or inanimate object; the “tzomeyach,” vegetation; “chai,” living creatures; and humans, who have the ability to speak. Each one of these levels reacts differently to an assault. When the human is attacked, he rises up against his opponent and fights him. An animal does not always rise up against its attacker; it screams from pain and tries to escape. Vegetation cannot rise up, scream or escape; its form changes and it wilts. The inanimate object does not respond at all, and that is the meaning of the expression “vayidom.” Like a “domaim” an inanimate object, Aharon at the moment of his great pain had no response. As we say in Tehillim (145:17) “Righteous is Hashem in all His ways …” even Aharon’s innermost thoughts and feelings remained the same. He continued his holy work with the same simcha as before, and the Shechina remained with him.
The Sefer Nifla’osecha Asisa provides another insight for the expression of “vayidom.” We learn in the medrash that when the two sons of R’ Meir died suddenly, his wife Bruriah comforted him by reminding him that the children had only been entrusted to them for a certain amount of time. Now the owner, Hashem, had come to claim His collateral. Aharon HaKohen understood that he was entrusted from Shamayim with two sons and now they were being reclaimed, and he could not second-guess the Divine decree.
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 101a) tells us that when R’ Eliezer fell sick, four elders went to visit him: R’ Tarfon, R’ Yehoshua, R’ Elazar ben Azariah and R’ Akiva. R’ Tarfon told R’ Eliezer that he was more valuable to Klal Yisrael than rain, for rain is precious in this world, but R’ Eliezer is so for this world and the next. R’ Yehoshua observed that R’ Eliezer was more valuable than the sun, for the sun is only for this world, while R’ Eliezer is for this world and the next. R’ Elazar ben Azariah declared that R’ Eliezer was better for Klal Yisrael than a father and a mother, for they are for this world and R’ Eliezer is for this world and the next. But R’ Akiva noted that suffering is precious.
“How do you know this?” asked R’ Eliezer.
He made reference to the King Menashe, the son of Chizkiyahu, who sinned, despite the fact that his father took great pains to teach him to walk in the path of Torah. Only pain and suffering brought him back to the right path.
The Gemara (ibid.) states that the elders cried to see R’ Eliezer in such pain, but R’ Akiva laughed. He explained that all the time that he saw R’ Eliezer did not suffer – his wine didn’t sour, his flax wasn’t smashed, his honey was not ruined – he was concerned that Rebbi had perhaps forfeited his share in olam haba. Now that he saw Rebbi in pain he was happy (that he had inherited a good life in olam haba).
When an individual experiences yesurim – be they physical, monetary, or other forms of suffering – he should know that it is for his good. R’ Chaim Vital said: It is beneficial for one to be embarrassed for it is a rectification for his sins, and in that moment, it is as though he has died. One should therefore try not to be upset, forgoing the opportunity he has been given for correction. The Sifri says that it is a good sign when one accepts yesurim and is quiet.
A father had an older boy at home who was having trouble finding a shidduch. The years went by and all the suggestions did not pan out. He also had a daughter who was waiting to go out and both were getting on in years. Nevertheless, the man endured the setback in silence and did not complain.
One day, as he was walking in Bnei Brak, he noticed a young child carrying three flats of eggs. Every few steps, the boy would put down his load and rest. The man had pity on the child and asked where he was going with the eggs. The child said he was taking them to his house. The man offered to carry them for him.
As he walked, he thought of his own heavy burden, and he suddenly began to cry bitter tears. He called out to the Ribbono Shel Olam, “Hashem, I beg of You to take my burden and help me.” He could not stop crying as he walked through the streets and prayed fervently for Divine assistance. It was a prayer unlike any he had ever davened. Our prayers definitely have an effect in Shamayim. Within a few months after this heartfelt tefillah, the man’s son was standing under the chuppah.