These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[Alumni Guest Post] Through the Silence

Posted on December 24, 2012 by The Director of Digital Media

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Daniel Shibley (Fellows '12) writes
about his recent Motza"Sh musings:
English: Mostar - church and mosque

English: Mostar – church and mosque

Moments after the departure of Shabbat this week, I walked slowly, even delicately, in the direction of my yeshiva dorm almost as if I did not want to make any noise that would shatter the lingering quiet of Shabbat. Having just said ma’ariv (evening service), I knew that Shabbat was over for me and the the week was beginning, albeit in earnest.

With my prayer just concluded, another suddenly began. One by one the mosques in the Arab villages surrounding Alon Shvut began the call to prayer, the sound waves emanating from the minarets. Each muezzin, whether recorded or live, expertly pronounced every syllable of the adhan. Together they formed a surround-sound, stereo-esque sensation deep within my ears. As a result of the broken silence it would have been relatively easy to be frustrated with the overwhelming waves of sound. However, I realized that it is only because of the much-diminished Shabbat traffic on the local roads that I was able to hear so precisely the words echoing from the neighbors. On my way to the dorm I passed the yeshiva’s dining hall where the students within were cleaning up en-masse from the final Shabbat meal, in preparation for the new week, before themselves returning to the beit midrash for their own ma’ariv.

Here we are, located in an area of political controversy and historical religious significance. Each group carries a national narrative to which it clings. Those factors sometimes result in feelings of tension and distrust. Even as we live different lives, our lives are linked by common periods of prayer. Each invokes the name of God multiple times daily at prescribed times that are at least somewhat dependent on the combination two celestial bodies and their times of rising and setting, a commonality that easily goes unnoticed.  More often than not, the sounds and rhythm of daily responsibilities mutes the possibility of recognizing common practice, and in fact, it was Shabbat itself that facilitated my discovery of a truth that I suppose had been known only intuitively.

I paused on my walk, frozen in my tracks, not paralyzed, but wanting to preserve the moment, to cradle it for as long as possible. Usually t’fillah is thought of as a means of connecting the human to divine. Perhaps it can be a vehicle for linking humans to humans. With that thought I walked off into the darkness, the new week in its infancy, with the hope that others can share my epiphany.