Desert Island Texts

Desert Island Texts

If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?

This week, Southgate Progressive Synagogue’s Rabbi Yuval Keren selects: Revelation In The Sound Of Silence

THERE ARE many powerful teachings in Judaism. I tend to favour texts that give me a universal narrative of ethics and wisdom.

With these, I find it easy to reconcile Divine imperatives with my personal needs and my relationship with others around me.

Rabbi Akiva teaches us that the commandment to ‘love your fellow like yourself’ is the grand principle of the entire Torah. It essentially encompasses all other commandments.

Hillel the elder summed up the entire Jewish wisdom in a single teaching to a baffled convert: What is hateful to you, do not do to others; all the rest is commentary.

Now go and learn it.” Yet, all these powerful universal teachings become somewhat redundant if I am to be a cast away alone on a desert island. With no fellows, friends, neighbours or other human beings around me for company, my desert island text will need to focus on my relationship with the Almighty.

My castaway choice is, therefore, Elijah’s anticipation of revelation in the mighty wind, the shattering earthquake and the great fire. Yet revelation was not to be found in any of these spectacularly violent phenomena.

Rather, the presence of the Almighty was revealed to Elijah in ‘kol d’mamah dakah’ – in the soft sound of silence. Before opening the front door in the morning and beginning our engagement with the world around us, and before we apply ‘love our fellow’ and ‘do not do to others’, we should just pause and spend a split second on our secluded desert island.

At this moment, we should try and ignore the wind, earth, fire and listen to ‘kol d’mamah dakah’ – revelation in the sound of silence.