What to Say

Friday, 5 April, 2024 - 7:11 am

Do you sometimes wonder what to say to someone when hearing that they suffered a tragedy or are facing a challenge? Are you at a loss for words because you cannot imagine what they are going through? Do you want to say something but aren’t sure if it will help or harm?


In this week’s parsha, Shemini, we learn of Aharon’s response to the heartbreaking news that two of his sons had perished. The Torah states simply, “And Aharon was silent.”

Because of his silence, explains the Midrash, Aharon merited that the Almighty spoke directly and exclusively to him.

A private audience with G-d is a pretty spectacular reward. What was so special about Aharon’s behavior that earned him this great honor?


The Talmud states: Said Rav Papa: The merit of attending a house of mourning lies in the silence observed.  In fact, Jewish tradition maintains that silence is the first and primary mode of conduct when paying a shiva visit.

What is the virtue of silence?

The Chassidic Rebbes explain that speech, while powerful, is also limiting.  Articulating a thought or feeling accomplishes much. But it also eliminates other elements. In fact it may eliminate the deepest thoughts and emotions; those that are beyond articulation.

When someone shows up at a shiva house and is simply present, they are offering more than any words can offer.  When I am there for a friend, whose pain I cannot compartmentalize into mere words, I am giving the greatest gift I can.


Sometimes, nothing is better than something.

Comments on: What to Say
There are no comments.