During the Holocaust, most of the world stayed silent. But here, I don’t mean that humanity was silent. Here I mean that the planet was quiet.
The Giving of the Torah
During the giving of the Torah, the whole of Nature turned noiseless to make the Ten Commandments stand out even more.
When we say the Main Standing Prayer in a prayer quorum, we re-create this silence. At the Giving of the Torah, G^d spoke to us; now it’s reversed.
It’s ironic that desert in Hebrew is Midbar, which is written identically to the Hebrew for speaking: Medaber. You expect total silence in the desert.
But what’s so special about this silence?
The Exodus from Egypt
At the last of the Ten Plagues, the dogs in Egypt didn’t bark (Exodus 11:7).
The irony is that the wails of animals made room for the cries of people. It seems that G^d’s providence to animals doesn’t depend on their prayer.
As reward, dogs (Babba Kamma 60b) get unusable meat (Exodus 22:30).
(But why credit the dogs for not howling? They wail when they see the Angel of Death. But, that night, He was not moving around among us. The dogs’ silence attested to that Death stayed away. But, G^d lets good things happen through good souls. Therefore, they are rewarded anyway.)
But what’s so special, meritorious, and rewardable about their silence?
The Creation Story
This Story reads like a description by someone who is completely deaf from birth. It’s like a silent film. No water murmurs, no leaves rustle, and no lion roars. Even Adam doesn’t answer back yet.
The only sound comes from G^d, it seems, calling the world into existence.
Yet, much later, in Numbers 7:89, we find that G^d talks ‘to him.’ The simple meaning is that He talks to Moses. But our prime Commentator Rashi writes that He was just talking to Himself with Moses overhearing it!
Maybe, that’s G^d’s permanent mode of operation, since He tells us that He doesn’t change (Numbers 23:19, Malachi 3:6). Which would mean that Creation happened in total silence!
So, maybe that’s what’s so special, meritorious, and rewardable about the above silences. They point to the Creation Story, and thus to the Creat^r.
The Sages teach us that humans stand out not for walking erect or thinking straight, but for being talking beings. Jews’ Credo opens with: Jews, hear!
But, sometimes, less is more. Silence is golden. We pray in a whisper.