The middah of honor is an essential part of “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which in turn is essential to the command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and substance. If we don’t honor the people around us, can we really claim to honor the God who made them?
Silence is something we try to avoid. If there is silence in a conversation, we feel awkward, and say something just to fill the void in the conversation. The problem is, when people say something just to fill the silence, often the quality of what is said lacks substance. A good example of this is at funerals. Most people, with the exception of undertakers, feel awkward at funerals. We just don’t know what to say. I have heard some of the most thoughtless comments come out of people’s mouths while trying to be comforting.
The book of Leviticus (Vayikra) contains a set of passages (chapters 12-15) often skipped in our study due to their unpleasant nature. I am ever fascinated by the laws of purity contained in these pages. The Holy One teaches Moses who may come near the Divine Presence which is manifest in the Tabernacle. One must be tahor (pure/clean) in order to come near the Mishkan. Tahor denotes not a physical purity, but a purity of soul, a cleanliness of spirit. The opposite spiritual state, tamei (impurity & separation) indicates that a barrier has been placed between the human soul and the Divine.
It happened on that day at the turning of evening that he said them, “Let us go across to the other side of the sea.” They left the crowd of people and took him in the boat where he was, but other boats followed him. A great, stormy wind arose, and the waves were flooding inside the boat, to the point where it was almost full. He was asleep on the cushion in the stern of the boat, so they woke him up and said to him, “Rabbi, are you not worried about us? We are perishing!” He woke up and reprimanded the wind, and he said to the sea, “Hush and be silent!” The wind calmed down, and there was a great silence. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Why are you lacking emunah?" --Mark 4:35-40, DHE