"And Aaron was silent"(10:3).
Vayidom aharon - His heart turned to lifeless stone (domem - mineral), and he did not weep and mourn like a bereaved father, nor did he accept Moses' consolation for his soul had left him and he was speechless.
R. Eliezer Lipman Lichtenstein - Shem Olam:
Scripture chose "vayidom" rather than "vayishtok", (synonyms of silence). The latter signifies the abstention from speaking, weeping, moaning or any other outward manifestation as "They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man" (Ps. 107:27), followed by, "then are they glad because "yishtoku" - they are quiet" (ibid., 30). The verb "domem" however, connotes inner peace and calm...Accordingly Scripture describes the saintly Aaron as "vayidom" and not merely as "vayishtok", thus emphasizing that his heart and soul were at peace within, that rather than questioning the standards of God, he justified the Diving verdict.
a. Point out the difference between the two explanations.
According to Abravanel the tragedy overwhelmed Aharon totally to the point that he was in shock and unable to cope. His normal natural feelings were in paralysis. Thus the trauma of losing his two beloved sons overcame him and determined his disposition i.e. being unable to express himself or to receive expressions of sympathy.
According to Rav E. L. Lichtenstein, Aharon was able to transcend the tragedy and consciously accept it. He was the master of the situation rather than the situation mastering him. A similar idea is expressed in the Talmud Moed Katan 14B and 19A that if an individual is in mourning for a close relative and a Torah ordained holiday occurs during the mourning period, the mourner must suspend his mourning and join the community in full celebration of the holiday. The individual mourner must discipline himself to accept his tragedy and overcome it by celebrating the holiday very much as Aharon did.
b. Which view follows the plain meaning and context?
The view of Abravanel would seem to follow the plain meaning of the text because we hear no murmur or action from Aharon to indicate anything but complete personal devastation.
c. Which view is supported by Ps. 37:7 and Lament, 3:28?
The view of Rav E. L. Lichtenstein is supported by the above quoted sources. In Psalms and Lamentations we are taught the lesson that the individual should put his full faith and hope in God because ultimately deliverance will come. In other words, we should never allow tragedy to completely rule over us.
Prepared by: Rabbi Mordechai Spiegelman
veteran yeshiva educator (USA)
now residing in Jerusalem