Midreshet Amit


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Words that Heal

By: Rabbi Simi Sherman

In 1930 Babe Ruth, the famous professional baseball player, was asked how he felt knowing that he was now earning more money than The President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. The Babe retorted, "Hey I had a better year than he did."

LeHavdil, in 1994 after his son was killed in a failed rescue attempt, the father of captured Israeli soldier Nachshon Waxman was asked by a reporter how he felt knowing that so many people had been davening for his son's safe return and yet Hashem failed to answer these prayers. Without a beat, Nachshon Waxman's father famously answered, "Hashem DID answer our prayers, but the answer was 'no'."

Occasionally, frank, honest, off- the-cuff replies offered by thoughtful individuals become part of the fabric of our community conscience. There are few Americans who are unfamiliar with Babe Ruth's reply, nor are there many Israelis who have not hurt these powerful words of the father of a fallen solider. They have become part of our culture.

Similarly, we find Aaron offering a similar unplanned and very inspiring response to the loss of his sons. Parshas Achrei-Mos begins by discussing the loss of Aaron's two sons. It is difficult to mention this painful episode without recalling Aaron's response upon hearing of this tragedy. When Moshe informs Aaron that his sons Nadav and Avihu have been killed the Torah tells us that Aaron's only response is silence- VaYidom Aaron. He bravely accepts the divine judgment. There are no complaints or demands for heavenly justification. Courageously, Aaron responds with acceptance.

However, what I believe is often over-looked is what exactly gave Aaron the strength to respond in the way that he did. The answer in so secret and requires no imagination. In fact, the Torah tells us very clearly how Aaron garnered the strength to accept this painful decree. The very same pasuk that ends with Vayidom Aaron begins with, "Moses said to Aaron: Of this did Hashem speak saying, 'I will be sanctified through those nearest to Me, thus I will be honored through the entire people." Rashi explains that Moshe told Aaron that he knew that the sanctuary would be "sanctified" through the sacrifice of those closest to Hashem. Moshe assumed it would be himself and Aaron. But, as we see actually it was Aaron's two sons who were closest to Hashem.

These are the words of nechamah- comfort- that Moshe offers Aaron as he delivers the terrible news. And it is precisely on the back of these words that Aaron musters the inner fortitude to reply with Vayidom Aaron. They are only a few words, but they nevertheless pierce the heart and give strength to a bereaved father.

Please G-d we should never encounter such tragedies, but even in our everyday lives we tend to sell ourselves short in terms of the power we have to heal and comfort others with a few simple words. Whether it's a welcoming word to a friend who perhaps is not the most popular, a thank you to our parents or 'good morning' to a stranger on the street we possess the power to heal, uplift and elevate the lives of those around us.