When I think of Matan Torah, I envision the lights, camera, and action. A sensational euphoria rushes through me, like the high after a successful undertaking. Just envisioning the wonders, despite not recalling them at all, I am swept away. I also think of the thud of the aftermath, likely deafeningly louder than the sound of the lightning spark that was heard.
After every high, after the noise, reality often gives way to a thud, leaving nothing but silence. In life, low tides follow the highs. It’s not a melancholic silence; it’s the silence of reality.
In Torah, silence is praised. The Pirkei Avos says, “Silence is a fence around wisdom.” The fence, or indicator, of wisdom is the ability to remain silent. Why is this so? Because in the still moments, there is time for thought. Time to process, allow ideas to percolate, and reflect. Silence brings humility. Space for learning, applying, and accepting. When Aharon faces loss, he is silent. For he was wise enough to understand that his situation was incomprehensible. His silence allowed him to reflect.
This happens a lot in life. About the things that matter most, we are silent. We don’t boast about our insecurities, or give updates on our self-improvement projects. For these changes to take effect, we need silence. Real work isn’t instant. It takes consistent and intentional effort that often blossoms when no one is watching. For real work to happen, you can’t be swept away by externals. You can’t be in the limelight of the party.
It’s sometimes hard to leave the party, the vacation, the yom tov. But that little dip when it’s over shouldn’t make your stomach sink. The silence brings time to process. It’s the beckon of opportunity. What did I experience? What did I learn? How am I taking it with me?
It’s hard. Because in the midst of the action, in the eye of the hubbub, everything appears more exciting. But noise is superficial; it doesn’t change you. And although silence doesn’t change you either, it’s an enabler. It allows you to get to work. It gives you the chance to change yourself.
Coming down the mountain, from the magical experience of receiving the Torah, and spending time with family and friends over delicious cheesecake, is hard. The silence is illusory, creating space for the words unspoken. What are you saying? What are you doing?
The best response to silence is mirroring it. You don’t have to answer with words. The best reply is to listen and act.
Chaya Silver is passionate about continuously learning and finding meaning in the mundane.