Shabbat Shalom
B'Haalot'cha |19 Sivan 5775
Num. 8:1-9:14 | Zechariah 2:14-4:7
This Shabbat, Sarah Aronson shares
The Holiness of Silence


Growing up in the 1970s, Shabbat meant Friday night services, and in our congregation, stories. Our Rabbi had an unofficial policy: if a child came to services, he would read a story in lieu of a sermon. My sisters and I quickly became known as the giggling girls, not because we were a particularly good audience, but we were unable to make it through even two seconds of a silent prayer.


It's ironic, because although my parents encouraged laughter, music, and great conversation, we were also hikers. We kept journals. We were not uncomfortable with silence.


As a parent, I strove to teach my children what my parents taught me. But in a world of Twitter, Facebook, email, and 24 hour news, it hasn't been easy. Listening is rarely rewarded-it's almost a lost art. Today, we are encouraged to shout and brag and boast, the more often the better. If we have insecurities or problems, they exist only as preludes to stories of triumph.


I wasn't setting the best example either. When we moved to Evanston three years ago, our youngest son was a senior in high school. I was busy-getting him settled-but also finishing one novel and unsure what to write next. To get out of the house, I took a part time job at Northwestern. I began to use my walks to campus to catch up with my kids, friends, or writing students. I became good at texting and walking. It seemed like a good use of my time. I was multi-tasking. Productive.


Then one day I forgot to charge my phone. I had to walk the mile and a half without noise or interruption. When I arrived at my office, I grabbed the nearest piece of paper.


That day, silence gave me three new ideas for stories.


The next day, it offered me a new character. Then a setting.  A good line of dialogue. Old problems felt solvable.


I now turn off my phone, so I can take time to notice the changing colors of Lake Michigan. I have caught all kinds of people kissing, four bachelor ducks that like to hang out together, and doors that look like they're smiling. I have walked with a man, striving to increase his endurance after suffering a stroke. I overheard one proposal.


Walking silently has become a daily Shabbat. This silence is, for me, the power of our shared faith. Shabbat is a sacred experience that asks us to contemplate and listen, to put down the errands of a busy week, and invite inspiration into our lives. As a writer, silence has enriched my creative process. It has offered me new hunches, epiphanies, and breakthroughs. It has stretched my craft. But beyond writing, these moments have also offered me perspective and even wisdom. They give me time to answer tough questions. As I walk, my heart beats slower. I appreciate what I have. I embrace who I am right now. I give thanks.


SARAH ARONSON is a writer and writing teacher. Are you inspired to write? Sign up for her weekly newsletter, Monday Motivation, on her website:

Each Friday during 5775, we are featuring writings from you, our congregants, sharing reflections on Shabbat. We hope you will be inspired to share your reflections with the community. If you are interested in contributing to this project, please contact Stacey Zisook Robinson
This Shabbat at Beth Emet

Friday, June 5
6:30 p.m. Kol Emet Shabbat: A Special Shabbat to Honor Cantor Arik Luck featuring the Beth Emet/Beth Hillel B'nah Emunah Choir. Special blessing for Fay Lipschultz.  

Congregational Shabbat dinner to follow services in the Crown Room. 
Saturday, June 6
9:30 a.m.   Kahal in the Weiner Room with Torah Reader Fay Lipschultz and Torah Discussion Leader Michael Orenstein.

:30 a.m.  
Shabbat Minyan in Room 208.
10:30 a.m.  Chava Mitzen and Zoe Salamon b'not mitzvah in the Sanctuary. 

12:00 p.m. Shabbat Potluck Lunch and Kahal Town Hall Meeting in the Weiner Room.

Please note, Kabbalat Shabbat Services next week, June 12, will be at at 6:30 p.m. Services on the second Friday of the month will resume at 8:00 p.m. in the fall. 
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