Yesterday, something I read gave me an image which is been stuck in my head.
Some writer described cable news as a ersatz hospital waiting room — when something terrible happens, we all go there. We mill about, restlessly and aimlessly, waiting for some news. Wishing that there was something we could do. Of course, there is no news coming anytime soon, and there's nothing we can actually do, right now. All we can do is wait. And so we wait, and we keep looking for news, and we keep telling ourselves we should do something else, and we keep waiting.
I know I'm not alone in feeling that way in the wake of the bombing in Boston, yesterday. I keep checking news sites, looking for any updates. But, the only updates I really might see this morning are the ones I really don't want to see — changes in the death toll, mostly. But, the senseless tragedy keeps drawing my attention back in. It feels voyeuristic and otherwise pointless to keep reading the news, but it seems somehow disrespectful to ignore it — to go on with my life as if the little things which were to occupy my day really matter. And so, I stay in that waiting room, sad, and angry, and restless, and useless. I don't know what else to do.
Recently, in the weekly Torah portion, we read the story of the deaths of Nadav and Abihu, two sons of Aaron who were killed for some ritual violation. Moses, Aaron's brother, explains to Aaron that this is how God asserts His holiness. And, the Torah tells us, Aaron was silent.
A lot of ink has been spilled, over the centuries, trying to explain Aaron's silence. For me, the most compelling explanation is numbing grief. What could he possibly say, what could any of us possibly say, in the face of such a loss? What is the proper reaction to the death of innocents? Anything that we say sounds wrong to our ears. And so maybe the best thing to do is to remain silent. It is, at the very least, more honest than any words we might try to use at times like these.
In Israel, on Yom HaZikaron (Fallen Soldier Remembrance Day), as on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) a week earlier, a siren is sounded, and for that minute, the country stands still. Whatever people are doing, they stop, stand, and are silent. Cars stop. Businesses stop. Pedestrians stop. Everything stops. And everyone is silent.
In the face of tragedy greater than we can comprehend, and in the face of each and every tragedy, great and small, since, words fail us. And so, we simply stand in silence.
My heart is with the people in Boston. May they find healing, and strength. May they find peace.