Welcoming the silence

Elizabeth Hersh is Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel (TE), and a blogger on the Jewish Light’s website (stljewishlight.com/chaplain).

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

I was put on voice rest for three days. I am half way through this post-operation order. In anticipation of this reprieve from speech, I was nervous (what if I forgot and spoke?) and then I began looking forward to this period of silence. After all, I didn’t have any plans to visit an ashram, I don’t take yoga classes and meditation has never been appealing. This was my opportunity for complete white space. And if I couldn’t speak, would the thoughts in my head be subdued? Moreover, would those around me be quieter since the response would be mute?

Honestly, I am enjoying a respite from talking, from hearing my voice. And with so many other ways if communicating, do we even need to talk? Hasn’t talking to one another become somewhat obsolete? When was the last time you called a friend to talk? How many of you rely on texting instead of the call? 

I miss the long, uninterrupted conversation with a friend. As cherished friends have stopped by to visit, they have understandably said, “don’t talk.” They carry the conversation in a lively and gentle way, including me in ways I didn’t think possible. I am astonished at their creativity and sensitivity in carrying a one-way conversation. 

Yet, I try to respond with written messages, body language and eye movements. We find ways to visit in ways that are more attentive than usual. Imagine, silence has given a new voice to our friendships! Try it sometime.

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