By: Rav Herzl Hefter
My father was a grown man at the time of World War II and would constantly relive and recount his memories of those terrible years as well as more pleasant times growing up with his family of nine brothers and sisters in Poland before the War. Those stories, often told at our Shabbat table in Brooklyn, would inevitably begin with the words, “איך געדענק נאך פאר דער קריג ” – “I remember yet before the War…”
Those words always conjured up for me the image of the biblical Noah sitting at his shabbat table recounting to his children life before the Great Flood, saying,
“איך געדענק נאך פאר דער מבול “
Parashat Emor begins with Aharon’s confrontation with death.
“And the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: ‘None shall defile himself for the dead among his people”
The Mei HaShiloach (R. Mordechai Yosef Lainer of Ishbitz , 1800-1854) at the beginning of the parasha distinguishes between two modes of speech; Amirah and Dibbur. Amirah connotes words spoken softly while Dibbur refers to harsher, more assertive speech.
In the face of death it is very easy to conclude that God is either non-existent or malevolent. Believers, however, says R. Mordechai Yosef, have expectations of God and from the world He created and watches over. The historical mission of the children of Israel, launched by Abraham, is to proclaim that God created the world and is intensely invested in its’ fate. This assertion is hushed in the face of the enormity and terror of death and injustice. Even God must speak in a whisper.