Torah For Today: The power of silence
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Torah For Today: The power of silence

Rabbi Daniel Friedman takes a topical issue and delves into Jewish texts for an Orthodox response

Last month thousands of people staged a 48-hour Twitter silence to protest against the antisemitic rantings of Wiley. Was that wise? By walking away, didn’t we give the antisemites free rein to spew their hatred unchecked? 

Let’s talk about the concept of tzimtzum.  When God created the world, He faced the “challenge” of transforming infinite spiritual light into the physical world we inhabit.  

An overabundance of spiritual energy was too much for the world to contain and it would have “exploded”.  

The Kabbalists explain that He solved the conundrum by holding back and limiting the light.  He then channelled a single beam of light, the kav, from which the world was fashioned.  

Sometimes in life, we need to hold back our abundance of energy in order to focus the beam of light.  That’s what we did on Twitter.  

On 27 July, nobody walked out.  We weren’t silent. We simply held back and channelled all our energy through our religious leader, Chief Rabbi Mirvis. 

He stood up and issued a powerful declaration, international media outlets took notice and amplified his voice – and the antisemites were banished.  

Without the tzimtzum, we could not have achieved that goal. The light – the noise of all our voices – was just too great.  

We encounter a similar idea in the story of the Ten Commandments.  After hearing the first two directly from God, the Israelites turned to Moses and begged him to continue the conversation on their behalf.  

The scholar Nachmanides explains that they really heard all 10, but the noise was too powerful for them to make sense of it.  

God then held back the colossal energy and focused His kav on Moses, who conveyed the message clearly to the people.

We are blessed to have our own Moses. May the Almighty bless the Chief Rabbi with good health to continue to lead and speak on behalf of Anglo-Jewry for many years to come.

  •   Rabbi Daniel Friedman serves Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue
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