Monday, September 13, 2010

Find silence

So I sent this out last week but forgot to post it as a blog...oopsy. Thoughts on the task welcome.

At the Union of Jewish Students in the UK, we are pioneering a concept known as 'EduAction'. This means that whatever program or text study we run with students, the education/learning/values part must always be followed by an activity to put what you have learned into action...hence 'EduAction'.
This week's task therefore has two parts.
Part 1.
The first is a mini text-study which you can do either with a friend or by yourself, in silence.
There is a mishnah in Pirkei Avot which says:
"Shimon his son said: All my days have I grown up among the wise and I have not found anything better for a person than silence. Studying Torah is not the most important thing rather fulfilling it. Whoever multiplies words causes sin." (1:17)

Questions to ponder:

1. Silence is very much an anti-Jewish idea! How many Jewish events can you think of where silence is maintained?! Why do you think Shimon places such importance on it?

2. What is the link between his view on silence and his second point that 'Studying Torah is not the most important thing rather fulfilling it'? And what does he mean by that?

3. Surely his final statement is a little harsh - we all know that chevruta - paired text study - is lively, full of debate and an excellent way to learn - how would this fit in?

Part 2.

I've just got home to see my parents for Rosh Hashanah and so I asked my dad what he felt 'Find silence' meant. He suggested something to do with inner-peace which is a bit non-British if you ask me but I'd like to propose the following for the second part of this week's challenge:

Shabbat is the silence to the mad rush of the week and provides the oasis of calm - the inner peace - that we all need to recharge our batteries. With this week's Shabbat falling on Shabbat Shuva - the Shabbat of repentance before Yom Kippur - it gives us a good time to think about creating peace with our friends and families. We learn on Rosh Hashanah that one can't ask for forgiveness from God until we have asked for forgiveness from our fellow human beings, so the second part of the experiment is to think of a person in our family, or a friend, or an acquaintance, that we might have fallen out with, even if it wasn't our fault and just to extend the first hand of reconciliation and see how it feels. (Perhaps one of the things Rabbi Shimon is hinting to in the Pirkei Avot text we've just looked at is the power of speech - if we all knew the effect our words had on people, we would think much more carefully about how we speak, and perhaps come to view silence as the most important thing. Perhaps that's why 'Whoever multiplies words causes sin'...)

On a more positive note, enjoy the apple and honey, Shana tova and Shabbat shalom!



My other idea!

What I really wanted to do was to suggest that 'Find silence' might be a good opportunity to think about what life is like for Jews who are unable to hear and think about how they might observe Shabbat.

I was going to ask everyone to try to learn one of the blessings for the Friday night rituals in sign language, and then perform it on Shabbat. I didn't have time to get copies of all the actions though, so real apologies!

I did however find the following on YouTube which is well worth a watch and really makes you think:

Blessing over wine in Sign Language -

Blessing for bread in Sign Language -

YouTube channel looking at Jewish holidays and culture in Sign Language -

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