September 2010: A “Moment” of Silence

When did a “Minute” of Silence to commemorate the dead become a “Moment” of Silence? When Governor Rell declared a “Moment of Silence” to commemorate the victims of the Manchester shooting at Hartford Distributors, I was expecting a true minute. Even when the radio announcer stated at 9:15 AM on August 9 that they were about to begin their “Moment of Silence”, I thought he misspoke. He must have meant a minute and confused it with a moment. Unfortunately, I was mistaken and he was correct. It was a moment. About 10 seconds. That’s about 1.1 seconds per person.

Throughout Europe, it is customary to observe a minute of silence on certain memorial holidays and when the government sees fit to proclaim a remembrance. The UN observed a minute of silence for the Haiti victims, British soccer (football) fans celebrate a minute of silence (recently changed to a minute of applause) for deceased players, Wikipedia even defines a “Moment of Silence” as traditionally being one minute long. What is wrong with our harried society that we can’t pause radio programming for a full 60 seconds to think about the eight innocent victims and send some prayers and thoughts to the suffering families, including those of the shooter? In Israel, everyone stops and air raid sirens around the country are sounded for a full 2 minutes on Yom Hashoah. People pull over their cars and stand on the side of the road, radio programs stop the music, diners stop eating and everyone considers for 120 seconds the 6 million lost.

In our society where everything is shortened except the work day (somehow that keeps getting longer), one minute becomes 10 seconds, Shabbat goes from 27 hours to 1 hour (just long enough to light the candles and have dinner), and Rosh Hashanah goes from 2 days to 1. Every year, the pattern continues to develop. If Rosh Hashanah falls on a weekend, attendance is great the first day and trails a little on the second day. If one day is on the weekend, then that day has the better attendance. And, if both days are during the week, attendance drops drastically on the second day. I like to think that G‑d understands we are busy people, and if we are not at services, it is for a good reason; we are out saving the world, on combat duty in Iraq, or physically too infirm to make it to the Temple.

Whether you come to services three times each year or 365 times, the high holidays are a chance to reconnect with G‑d and Judaism. The services are long and the room is crowded, but sometimes it takes a while to have that personal spiritual moment. It may not happen in the first hour, or even the sixth hour, but eventually, if you are patient and let it, it will happen. You’ll remember why being Jewish is important to you, why it is/was important to your parents and grandparents, and why you remain a member of Temple Beth Sholom.

The more we all frantically run around during the week juggling work, family, and volunteer time, the more important it is for us to slow down once in a while and take some time to reflect on what is important. Allow Shabbat to expand to 2 hours by going to Friday night services after a nice Shabbat dinner or by going to Saturday morning services. Allow yourself additional time at the holidays to attend services each day. The holidays only occur once a year and work, school, and soccer practice will always be there when you return.

Shanah Tovah,