Table Talk: Shemini
Before or After: “Just as God sat for the seven days of mourning, during the seven days of Creation, for the world that would be destroyed in the Flood, so too, Aaron and his sons sat Shiva during the first seven days of the dedication of the Mishkan for Nadav and Avihu who would die on the eighth day.” (Yerushalmi, Moed Katan 3:5, as explained by the Korban Ha’eidah: God knows the future and therefore mourns before the tragedy.) Why would God “mourn” the tragedy before it happens? Is there a parallel in the pre-death mourning many people experience?
“As long as the Mishkan and Beit Hamikdash stood, Michael, the Ministering Angel, would offer Korbanot in the Heavenly Beit Hamikdash to parallel the Korbanot offered by Israel in their Beit Hamikdash. This was to teach us that whenever we perform any service of God, we should do it in a manner that will lead others to emulate our actions.” (Kedushat Levi, Likkutim; Avot: “If you have learned much Torah”) We find a similar concept in the Talmud (Yoma 86a) that teaches that we fulfill the commandment to Love God when we act in such a manner that our actions lead others to love God. How can we fulfill the Mitzvot in such a way that others will be inspired to love God as a result of our actions?
A Comforting Silence
Although most people feel compelled to speak in a house of mourning as a way of distracting the mourners or to dispel people’s discomfort, the Mitzvah is to sit silently and wait for the mourners to speak first. This law is derived from this portion when it says (10:3) that Aaron remained silent and still after his sons died. The Talmud (Berachot 6b) teaches that: “The reward for comforting mourners is based on the silence!” Are there other times when silence is the most appropriate response to someone’s pain?