Leann Shamash
Author of the blog Words Have Wings

A moment of pause

Photograph by Leann Shamash
Leviticus 10:1-3 (Translation from Sefaria) "Now Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his fire pan, put fire in it, and laid incense on it; and they offered before the LORD alien fire, which He had not enjoined upon them. And fire came forth from the LORD and consumed them; thus they died at the instance of the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD meant when He said: Through those near to Me I show Myself holy, And gain glory before all the people.” And Aaron was silent."
For the first eleven chapters of VaYikra, the third book of Torah, we receive thorough instructions of how to perform the different types of sacrifices Aaron is to make and a detailed description of the Mishkan. Until this point Sefer Vayikra has read like a “how-to” book and the text has been dry and precise.
As the reader proceeds through the text there is little expectation of what will come next. We read how Aaron finally makes the first sacrifice followed by blessing the people who have assembled. Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu proceed to offer, they offer “alien fire” in their fire pans. Without warning these “alien fires” are rejected and Aaron’s sons are incinerated. After the event Moses says to Aaron, “Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD meant when He said: Through those near to Me I show Myself holy, And gain glory before all the people.” And Aaron was silent.” (translation from Sefaria)
These passages in Vayikra are reminiscent of other instances in history when the unexpected occurs. It brought to mind parallels to the Boston Marathon in 2013. The build-up to the marathon, the training, the detail to every aspect of the race over time. And then the actual running of the race happens and as the runners ran toward the sought-after finish-line, the unimaginable happens and a series of explosions occur. Limbs are blown off, people are killed and life is changed for thousands in the space of seconds. I remember hearing accounts from people saying that directly after the event, before the rescues, before the sirens and hunts and the recognition of the enormity of the event, there was just a moment of nothingness, of silence.
That moment of silence is the subject of this week’s poem. In the moment after the death of Aaron’s sons, Aaron is silent. What does that moment of silence represent? We all have our own “moments of pause.”



There is a moment

after the explosion,

after the storm has hit,

after the shot was fired,

after the consuming blaze.

A simple pause

when silence reigns

and time freezes.

As the ashes fall.

As the smoke settles.

As the news sinks in.


A moment of transition


In the space of that moment

life resets,

as our hearts break.


Can you hear a heart breaking?


In the space of that moment

our eyes learn to re-see,

to accept this fate,

to begin again,

to rise from the ashes.


In the space of that moment,

that silent moment,

that forever moment,

we say our goodbyes.


If only

that moment

could s t r e t c h for eternity.

That silent pause between

past and present,

between what has been

and what is to come.



About the Author
After a career in Jewish education, Leann Shamash is the author of the blog Words Have Wings, which addresses the parsha of the week through poetry.
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