Our Torah portion this week opens in the wake of tragedy as it recounts, for a second time, the sudden death of Aaron’s sons. This retrospective reference to the demise of Nadab and Abihu invites each of us to consider our responses in times of grief and loss.
In the midst of trauma and tragedy, our most common response tends to be an immediate need for narrative clarity. For some reason, there is a desire to understand exactly what happened or why it happened, but the truth is that this kind of information does not change the reality of the loss. Perhaps, it is for this reason that Aaron is silent when he learns about the death of his sons.
Aaron’s silence is something that is familiar to us as well. For, in times of grief, rarely is there ever a “right thing to say.” It is for this reason that Jewish tradition encourages us to refrain from speaking to mourners unless they speak first.
On Monday afternoon, the City of Houston lost six beautiful souls when a small plane crashed near Kerrville, Texas. Three of those individuals were dear friends of our family, and like Aaron in our Torah portion, silence seems to be the most comforting response.