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The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence – Pirkei Avos ch.1 and Parshas Behalotcha by Yaakov Saavedra

Repairing Ourselves and Our World From the Damage of Fragmentation משנה אבות א׳:י״ז

(יז) שִׁמְעוֹן בְּנוֹ אוֹמֵר, כָּל יָמַי גָּדַלְתִּי בֵין הַחֲכָמִים, וְלֹא מָצָאתִי לַגּוּף טוֹב {אֶלָּא}

(מ)שְׁתִיקָה. וְלֹא הַמִּדְרָשׁ הוּא הָעִקָּר, אֶלָּא הַמַּעֲשֶׂה. וְכָל הַמַּרְבֶּה דְבָרִים, מֵבִיא חֵטְא:Pirkei Avot 1:17

(17) Shimon, his son, says, “All my days I grew up among the Sages, and I did not find anything better for the body except silence. And the exposition [of the Torah] is not what is essential, but the action is. And whoever increases words brings sin.” In order to Appreciate the Above, We Must First Examine and Understand:תהילים נ״ח:ב׳

(ב) הַֽאֻמְנָ֗ם אֵ֣לֶם צֶ֭דֶק תְּדַבֵּר֑וּן מֵישָׁרִ֥ים תִּ֝שְׁפְּט֗וּ בְּנֵ֣י אָדָֽם׃Psalms 58:2

Is it true that you were silent about the righteousness when you should have spoken, the fairness [with which] You should have judged the mankind? חולין פ״ט א:מ״א-מ״ח

מאי דכתיב (תהלים נח, ב) האמנם אלם צדק תדברון מישרים תשפטו בני אדם מה אומנותו של אדם בעולם הזה ישים עצמו כאלם יכול אף לדברי תורה תלמוד לומר צדק תדברון יכול יגיס דעתו ת”ל מישרים תשפטו בני אדםChullin 89a:10

What is meant (in the pasuk)

הַֽאֻמְנָ֗ם אֵ֣לֶם צֶ֭דֶק תְּדַבֵּר֑וּן מֵישָׁרִ֥ים תִּ֝שְׁפְּט֗וּ בְּנֵ֣י אָדָֽם?

1- What is the craft of mankind? He should make himself (as if) silent

2- Does this (silence) apply to words of Torah as well? therefore the pasuk teaches us :

“You shall speak righteousness”

3- Won’t this make him haughty?

Therefore the pasuk teaches us

“Judge men with with fairness” Creation of the World משנה אבות ה׳:א׳

(א) בַּעֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת נִבְרָא הָעוֹלָםPirkei Avot 5:1

(1) With ten utterances the world was created. The Source of the Soul בראשית רבה א׳:ד׳

(ד) “בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים” ששה דברים קדמו לבריאת העולם יש מהן שנבראו ויש מהן שעלו במחשבה להבראות. התורה והכסא הכבוד נבראו תורה מנין שנאמר (משלי ח, כב): “ה’ קנני ראשית דרכו” כסא הכבוד מנין דכתיב (תהלים צג, ב): “נכון כסאך מאז וגו'”. האבות וישראל ובית המקדש ושמו של משיח, עלו במחשבה להבראות האבות מנין שנאמר (הושע ט, י): “כענבים במדבר וגו'” ישראל מנין שנאמר (תהלים עד, ב): “זכור עדתך קנית קדם” בית המקדש מנין Bereishit Rabbah 1:4

In the beginning G-d created...” –

Six things preceded the creation of the world; some of them were created and some of them were decided (precise wording is “Arose in thought” )to be created….

How do we know Israel was? As it says (Psalms 74:2): “Remember your congregation, whom you purchased from old.

Internal processOutward expression
For oneself – united with thinkerFor external entity – separated from speaker
Abstracttangible
Dynamic/can change and evolveDefined/static

Applying the Above to Trials of Our Lives תהילים ס׳:ו׳(ו) נָ֘תַ֤תָּה לִּירֵאֶ֣יךָ נֵּ֭ס לְהִתְנוֹסֵ֑ס מִ֝פְּנֵ֗י קֹ֣שֶׁט סֶֽלָה׃ Psalms 60:6(6) Give those who fear You because of Your truth a banner for rallying.Selah.

1. Chofetz Chaiim’s mashal – the artisans who offered the farmers to trade the kings newly made crown for two cows. But the farmers refused siting who will plow our fields for us…

Don’t get distracted by petty things focus on the Goal

2. Rebbeitzen Chanah Story when the Rebbe climbed higher than his friends The Key to Overcoming all Tests… תהילים ט״ז:ח׳(ח) שִׁוִּ֬יתִי יְהוָ֣ה לְנֶגְדִּ֣י תָמִ֑יד כִּ֥י מִֽ֝ימִינִ֗י בַּל־אֶמּֽוֹט׃ Psalms 16:8

(8) I am ever mindful of the G-D’s presence; He is at my right hand; I shall never be shaken.

Ba’al Shem Tov Tsivas HaRiba”sh 1:1

The word Shiviti is related to the word Hishtavut – equanimity.

Everything that may come upon a person should be perceived in the same manner… For for Hashem placed it there.

Story – The Rebbe answered “Speak to (Rabbi Tzvi Hersh) Weinreb”במדבר ט׳:י״ח-כ״א(יח) עַל־פִּ֣י יְהוָ֗ה יִסְעוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְעַל־פִּ֥י יְהוָ֖ה יַחֲנ֑וּ כָּל־יְמֵ֗י אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִשְׁכֹּ֧ן הֶעָנָ֛ן עַל־הַמִּשְׁכָּ֖ן יַחֲנֽוּ׃ (יט) וּבְהַאֲרִ֧יךְ הֶֽעָנָ֛ן עַל־הַמִּשְׁכָּ֖ן יָמִ֣ים רַבִּ֑ים וְשָׁמְר֧וּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל אֶת־מִשְׁמֶ֥רֶת יְהוָ֖ה וְלֹ֥א יִסָּֽעוּ׃ (כ) וְיֵ֞שׁ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִהְיֶ֧ה הֶֽעָנָ֛ן יָמִ֥ים מִסְפָּ֖ר עַל־הַמִּשְׁכָּ֑ן עַל־פִּ֤י יְהוָה֙ יַחֲנ֔וּ וְעַל־פִּ֥י יְהוָ֖ה יִסָּֽעוּ׃ (כא) וְיֵ֞שׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִהְיֶ֤ה הֶֽעָנָן֙ מֵעֶ֣רֶב עַד־בֹּ֔קֶר וְנַעֲלָ֧ה הֶֽעָנָ֛ן בַּבֹּ֖קֶר וְנָסָ֑עוּ א֚וֹ יוֹמָ֣ם וָלַ֔יְלָה וְנַעֲלָ֥ה הֶעָנָ֖ן וְנָסָֽעוּ׃ Numbers 9:18-21

(18) At a command of G_D the Israelites

(dismantled the mishkan) and traveled, and at a command of G-D they (reconstructed the mishkan and) made camp: they remained encamped as long as the cloud stayed over the Tabernacle.

(19) When the cloud lingered over the Tabernacle many days, the Israelites observed G_D’s mandate and did not journey on. (20) At such times as the cloud rested over the Tabernacle for but a few days, they remained encamped at a command of G_D, and broke camp at a command of G_D. (21) And at such times as the cloud stayed from evening until morning, they broke camp as soon as the cloud lifted in the morning. Day or night, whenever the cloud lifted, they would break camp. Remaining Focused on the Truth שבת ל״א ב:ו׳-ז׳

וקסבר ר’ יוסי סותר על מנת לבנות במקומו הוי סותר על מנת לבנות שלא במקומו לא הוי סותר א”ל רבה מכדי כל מלאכות ילפינן להו ממשכן והתם סותר ע”מ לבנות שלא במקומו הוא א”ל שאני התם כיון דכתיב (במדבר ט, יח) על פי ה’ יחנו כסותר ע”מ לבנות במקומו דמי Shabbat 31b:6-7

As per R’ Yosi’s opinion that dismantling is only prohibited if one intends to rebuild in the same exact location meaning, that the very demolition is the genesis of the renovation, since it is being done in the very same space), is it a violation of Shabbos. Rabba said to him we learn of the 39 prohibitions from the (labors performed for the services) of the Mishkan. And dismantling the Mishkan was only for the purpose of reconstructing it in a different location. R’ Yosi replied regarding this (labor) there is a difference for the Torah states: They (reconstructed the mishkan and) camped by G-D’s word

Imagine a young woman traveling half way round the globe. From Miami she flies to LA, then to London, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Johannesburg, Sydney, and then NY. In each place, she must wait on the long and exhausting lines to go through customs and security. She needs to wait on lines to board and deplane. In each place, she needs to deal with luggage, travel, and settling in. As she enters each country, she receives a unique stamp on her Passport, indicative of the distinctive status of the new country she is about to enter, with a bureaucracy all its own.

But what if this young woman is holding an infant in her arms as she makes this arduous journey half way round the world? If the baby was asked where he has been all these days and weeks, what would his response be? If you were to ask him—or her—how many countries he visited, in how many places did he hang out, how many lines he waited on, how many passport controls he needed to endure? His answer will be: I was in the same place all the time—cuddled up in my mother’s arms.

For the baby, there is little difference between continents, countries, states and cities. All the long, grueling and strenuous lines don’t mean much to him—as he is protected from all of it. Throughout all the journeys, he lay comfortably and stably in his mom’s arms, oblivious to the multitudes of changes and fluctuations all around him. From his experience, he is not even “moving around” from one end of the globe to the other. He’s lodged comfortably in the safest and most nurturing place on earth: In his mother’s or father’s warm clinch.

This, then, is the meaning behind the Talmudic answer: “Since the Torah states, ‘They camped at G-d’s word and moved on at G-d’s word,’ when they dismantled the Mishkan it was as though they had the intention of reassembling it in the very same spot!” While journeying in the desert, the Jewish people experienced themselves as lodged 24/7 in G-d’s loving and embracing “arms.” From their perspective, they were always situated in the same “place.” Sure, geographically, they moved around; but in their consciousness, they have not moved anywhere: they were in the same spot—in the loving and nurturing grip of G-d.

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz, Sichos Musar, 5733.תהילים קל״ט:ז׳-ח׳(ז) אָ֭נָ֥ה אֵלֵ֣ךְ מֵרוּחֶ֑ךָ וְ֝אָ֗נָה מִפָּנֶ֥יךָ אֶבְרָֽח׃ (ח) אִם־אֶסַּ֣ק שָׁ֭מַיִם שָׁ֣ם אָ֑תָּה וְאַצִּ֖יעָה שְּׁא֣וֹל הִנֶּֽךָּ׃ Psalms 139:7-8(7) Where can I escape from Your spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? (8) If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I descend to Sheol, You are there too.

Story – The chosid Rabbi Yitzchok Breiter who did’t lean on his shoe factory Don’t Worry Be Happy Because He’s ALL GOODתניא, אגרת הקדש י״א:ב׳

(ב) וביאור הענין הוא רק אמונה אמיתית ביוצר בראשית דהיינו שהבריאה יש מאין הנק’ ראשית חכמה והיא חכמתו שאינה מושגת לשום נברא הבריאה הזאת היא בכל עת ורגע שמתהוים כל הברואים יש מאין מחכמתו ית’ המחיה את הכל וכשיתבונן האדם בעומק הבנתו ויצייר בדעתו הווייתו מאין בכל רגע ורגע ממש האיך יעלה על דעתו כי רע לו או שום יסורים מבני חיי ומזוני או שארי יסורין בעולם הרי האין שהיא חכמתו יתברך הוא מקור החיים והטוב והעונג והוא העדן שלמעלה מעוה”ב רק מפני שאינו מושג לכן נדמה לו רע או יסורים אבל באמת אין רע יורד מלמעלה והכל טוב רק שאינו מושג לגודלו ורב טובו וזהו עיקר האמונה שבשבילה נברא האדם להאמין דלית אתר פנוי מיני’ ובאור פני מלך חיים וע”כ עוז וחדוה במקומו הואיל והוא רק טוב כל היום וע”כ ראשית הכל שישמח האדם ויגל בכל עת ושעה ויחיה ממש באמונתו בה’ המחיה ומטיב עמו בכל רגע ומי שמתעצב ומתאונן מראה בעצמו שיש לו מעט רע ויסורין וחסר לו איזה טובה והרי זה ככופר ח”ו וע”כ הרחיקו מדת העצבות במאד חכמי האמת. אבל המאמין לא יחוש משום יסורין בעולם ובכל עניני העולם הן ולאו שוין אצלו בהשוואה אמיתית ומי שאין שוין לו מראה בעצמו שהוא מערב רב דלגרמייהו עבדין ואוהב א”ע לצאת מתחת יד ה’ ולחיות בחיי עו”ג בשביל אהבתו א”ע וע”כ הוא חפץ בחיי בשרים ובני ומזוני כי זה טוב לו ונוח לו שלא נברא כי עיקר בריאת האדם בעוה”ז הוא בשביל לנסותו בנסיונות אלו ולדעת את אשר בלבבו אם יפנה לבבו אחרי אלהים אחרים שהם תאוות הגוף המשתלשלים מס”א ובהם הוא חפץ או אם חפצו ורצונו לחיות חיים אמיתים המשתלשלים מאלקים חיים אף שאינו יכול: (צריך עיון. ובאיזה כתב יד ליתא תיבות אלו [אף שאינו יכול] ובנוסחא אחרת מצאנו כך. “או אם חפצו ורצונו אף שאינו יכול לחיות חיי אמיתים כו'”. ולפי נוסחא זו נראה שתיבות [אף שאינו יכול] הוא מאמר מוסגר).: ויאמין שבאמת הוא חי בהם וכל צרכיו וכל עניניו משתלשלים באמת בפרטי פרטיותיהם שלא מס”א כי מה’ מצעדי גבר כוננו ואין מלה כו’ ואם כן הכל טוב בתכלית רק שאינו מושג ובאמונה זו באמת נעשה הכל טוב גם בגלוי שבאמונה זו שמאמין שהרע הנדמה בגלוי כל חיותו הוא מטוב העליון שהיא חכמתו יתברך שאינה מושגת והיא העדן שלמעלה מעוה”ב הרי באמונה זו נכלל ומתעלה באמת הרע המדומה בטוב העליון הגנוז:Tanya, Letter of Holiness 11:2

…This means: there is to be only an absolute belief in the Yotzer Bereishit ; that is, that the creation of being ex nihilo (yesh meayin) [which is called reishit-chochmah, i.e. His wisdom which is not apprehensible to any creature]— this creation occurs constantly and every moment, by all creatures coming into being [as a substance ex nihilo (yesh meayin)] from His blessed wisdom which animates everything. And when man will contemplate in the profundity of his understanding, and will imagine in his mind his coming to be ex nihilo— truly every moment, how can he possibly think he has ever suffered, or had any afflictions related to “children, life, and sustenance,” or whatever other worldly sufferings. For the naught (ayin) which is His blessed wisdom is the source of life, welfare and delight. It is the Eden which transcends the world to come, except that, because it is not comprehensible, one imagines to have sufferings, or afflictions. In fact, however, no evil descends from above and everything is good, though it is not apprehended because of its immense and abundant goodness. And this is the essence of the faith for which man was created: to believe that “There is no place void of Him” and “In the light of the King’s countenance there is life,” and, conclusively, “Strength and gladness are in His place,” because He is but good all the time.

Therefore, first of all, man ought to be happy and joyous at all times, and truly live by his faith in the Lord who animates him and is benignant with him every moment. But he who is grieved and laments makes himself appear as if he has it somewhat bad, and (is) suffering, and lacking some goodness; he is like a heretic, Heaven forfend. That is why the Cabbalists strongly rejected the trait of sadness.

The faithful, however, is not indisposed by any afflictions whatever, and with respect to all mundane matters “yes” and “no” are all the same to him, in a true equation. But he to whom they are not the same, shows of himself that he is of the erev rav who act but for themselves, and loves himself to the extent of removing himself from under the hand of the Lord and to live the life of heathens— because of his self-love; that is why he desires the “life of the flesh,” and “children and sustenance”— for that is his good. It would have been better for him had he not been created. For the purpose of man’s creation in this world is to test him by these trials, to ascertain what is in his heart: whether he will turn his heart towards the other gods, namely the passions of the body which evolve from the sitra achra, and desire these, or whether his desire and wish is to live the true life which evolves from the livingG‑d. One must believe that he really lives in it, and all his needs, and everything related to himself, truly evolve in all their details [not from the sitra achra, but] “From the Lord by whom the steps of man are established,” “and there is not a word …” ; conclusively, everything is absolutely good, except that it is not apprehended.

By believing this truly, everything becomes good even in appearance. For by such a faith, that one believes that the very substance of what manifestly seems to be evil is (in fact) of the Supreme Good [i.e. His blessed chochmah which is non- comprehensible , and is the Eden which transcends the world to come], through this faith the imagined evil is truly absorbed and sublimated in the concealed Supreme Good. This is beautifully illustrated in a mysterious story once told by the Freidiker Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, at a farbrengen. In those days, some people made their living as an “organ grinder.” This was an individual who walked around town with a type of music box on wheels. He would set up his music machine at a street corner and start playing. He would have a young boy with him, usually an orphan who he took care of in exchange for work, who would walk around the people who gathered to listen to the music, bang on a drum and call out “More joy! More joy! More joy!” The Rebbe related that it once happened that after a certain organ grinder began playing, the boy who worked for him did not start walking around and calling on everyone there to enjoy the music. The boy had simply gotten distracted and began daydreaming or playing by himself. He simply did not hear the organ grinder’s music. The man tried repeatedly to get the boy’s attention, but to no avail. Finally, after completely losing his patience, he walked over to the boy, in front of everyone prsent, and smacked him on the side of the head. Immediately, the boy “woke up” to a feeling of physical pain and complete humiliation in front of everyone present. Without hesitation, he began banging on the drum with a huge smile, calling out, “More joy! More joy! More joy!” At that point, the Rebbe ended the story. After the farbrengin, the chassidim began discussing the story. In Chabad, stories are not told for no reason. Everyone was trying to discern what the Rebbe had been trying to teach. One group of chassidim believed that the boy was completely heartbroken and humiliated, but that he called out “More joy!” out of a sense of obligation, because he had no choice. He felt no joy inside. The other group of chassidim maintained that despite the slap he had just received, the boy knew and felt, with every fiber of his being, that his entire existence was dependent on this man, and the man needed him to feel joy at that moment, so he felt sincere joy. The chassidim asked the Rebbe’s son-in-law, the future and last Lubavitcher Rebbe, what he thought. He answered that there was no doubt at all that the second explanation was the correct one.