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Monday, 3 August 2015

Silence equals confirmation

Daf Yomi Nedarim 71

The major world powers have just signed off on a tentative agreement with Iran concerning its nuclear program.   Israel is not happy, and both the sitting government and the opposition have expressed their grave fears and dissatisfaction with the proposal.   Unfortunately, our leaders themselves are feeling like they are in the dark with regards to the finer details of the proposal.  Where does that leave us, the little people?  All we have to go on is the question of trust: if we trust that the leaders of Israel want what’s best for the Jewish people, then this is probably a very bad idea.

So now what?  Do you say, ‘Well, I’m just a little person, so there’s nothing I could really do to make a difference?’  Or do you stand up and do everything in your capacity to save the Jewish people from the threat of a regime that threatens to wipe us off the map? 

They inquired: Is divorce like silence or is it like confirmation?
The Ran explains: When the wife makes a vow, the Torah allows the husband to annul the vow on that day.  Since he knows that divorcing her will revoke his ability to annul her vow, does the divorce imply confirmation of the vow or is it considered silence vis-à-vis the vow, i.e. we cannot imply anything? 
The Gemara asks: What difference does it make?  For example, let’s say she made a vow, and her husband heard and divorced her but immediately remarried her on the same day.  If we say divorce is like silence, he could still annul the vow.  But if we say it’s like confirmation, he could no longer annul the vow.

Sometimes we think of divorce as its narrow definition of leaving a marriage.  But really divorce can refer to many different circumstances.  When you divorce yourself from someone or something, you are removing yourself from that situation and choosing to walk away.  Whenever you decide to walk away and divorce yourself from a situation, ask yourself: am I simply being silent or am I confirming their position?

In Were We Our Brothers’ Keepers? Rabbi Haskel Lookstein asks where American Jews were during the annihilation of millions of their European brothers and sisters in the Holocaust.  Is there really any difference between silence and confirmation?  When you walk away and divorce yourself from a situation of calamity, your silence is equal to confirmation.

 Israelis are scared.  We might not feel it thousands of miles away.  But if even the opposition party is with the government on this one, it tells you that this issue is not mere political bickering; it’s existential.   Will you divorce yourself from the matter?  Will you be silent?  That is, will you confirm?  Or will you do everything in your capacity to not stand idly by? 

How can you help?  What can you do?  Write letters to your elected officials.  Write letters to the newspaper.  Educate your neighbours and colleagues about Israel’s concerns.  Explain to them what Iran does to promote and support terror in the region.  Remind them that Iran has vowed to wipe Israel off the map.  Let them know that the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, are equally terrified of a nuclear Iran. 

And of course, on a much smaller scale, the question of walking way or standing up comes up throughout our lives.  Think about all the occasions you’ve seen our tradition being dragged through the mud on social media.  What did you do?  Did you ignore it and walk away?  Were you silent and effectively confirmatory?  Your mission on earth is to stand up for the glory of Heaven – don’t ever walk away when you see the Almighty’s glory coming under attack!  Your silence is like confirmation.

Never divorce yourself from your mission.  Silence equals confirmation.  May you merit to fulfill your mission as a Divine ambassador on earth, defending Hashem and His nation, physically and spiritually!