“There is a time when we must speak, when to remain silent is immoral.“
Radio listeners in the DFW area who tuned in to the Temple Emanu-El Program on Sunday, December 7, 1969, heard Rabbi Olan issue an impassioned call to make their voices be heard. It is often said that silence is golden, but remaining silent when injustice and oppression are thriving openly is not. Holding our tongues at such times is tacit approval — quiet collusion.
As an example of the difference that timely words can make, Olan told the story of Hanukkah and challenged his listeners: “Supposing that Mattathias had kept silent and accepted as did most of the people the decree of the king, what would have happened? There would have been no Maccabean rebellion against the tyrant. Judaism would have disappeared and Christianity would never have been born. It was a time to speak.“
Rabbi Olan preached that 1969 was a time for people of faith to voice their outrage at the perpetuation of crushing poverty within the world’s richest nation. In this sermon he also denounced the injustices and needless suffering caused by the War in Viet Nam. Olan could not remain silent about such things, and he chided faith communities that preferred promoting their own quiet calm to actively engaging with the world’s problems. “To be of the silent majority is to blaspheme against God and man.”
More than five decades have passed since “A Time to Speak” was broadcast. Our times are different, but just as fraught with problems. If you were to deliver this message today, what issues would you name? What makes you want to cry out loud? How can you motivate yourself and others to action?
*Written by Tim Binkley*