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    Sound or silence? – Yitro

    lightningRead chapter 19 of Sh’mot and see how many words are about noise – thunder, lightning, voice, speech.

    Read midrashic commentary and see how many words are about silence – hush, quiet, serenity, calm.

    Which set of words is more true? They both are. The Giving of the Torah was sound amid silence – or silence amid sound.

    There are two ways of communication, in sound and in silence.

    There are times for sound, especially when the Divine voice proclaims the eternal verities. There are times for silence, when the attentive world hears every nuance and is awestruck at the grandeur of the moment.

    In human history there are times when silence is courage, such as when Aaron sees the tragedy that befalls his sons who sin, and Aaron remains silent – perhaps because he realises the justice of the Divine punishment, perhaps because he cannot and must not find the words to cry out.

    There are times, though, when silence is crass cowardice, when evil abounds and the good people hold their peace – perhaps because they are afraid that they will draw attention to themselves and be the next to be attacked, perhaps because they haven’t the nerve to stand up, speak up and be counted.

    The glory of being human is that the decision is up to us, whether to utter a sound or hold one’s tongue.

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