There was a Chasidic leader who was very close to Rav Chaim
Brisker. When the Rebbe passed away, his son was unable to take
the helm. One grandson had the approval of the majority, but
some questioned his unusual habits. However, a second grandson
could lead -- without the unusual conduct. Having nowhere else
to turn for advice, they agreed to take the dilemma to Rav Chaim,
who was known for his brilliance. He was, after all, close to
the group, and had known their Rebbe very well.
Rav Chaim received the delegation with great honor. When they
presented the question as to who should succeed as Rebbe, he
related the following:
Korach initiated a plan to take over Moshe’s leadership.
Originally, we find On Ben Peles mentioned as one of the
renegades. However, his name doesn’t appear again. He is not
mentioned as one of those who died in the fire, nor as one
swallowed by the earth.
The Rabbis say that his wife dissuaded him. What did she say?
“What do you have to gain? If Moshe is the leader, you will be a
disciple. If Korach is leader, you will also be a disciple!”
Now, what kind of logic is this? Here, we have a profound
debate. Korach claims that Moshe makes decisions by whim, and
Hashem lets him get away with it. Korach, however, promises to
be more even-handed. Moshe responds that his decisions are not
his own, but dictated by Hashem Himself. On’s wife has not
addressed the profoundity of the argument whatsoever!
Actually, explained Rav Chaim, the woman’s words cut right to the
gist of the issue. It is easy to challenge leadership from the
outside, by questioning the decision-making process. Once the
opposition gains the upper-hand, though -- it finds itself in the
same quandary, and also is criticized for its decision-making
process... Therefore, On’s wife’s argument cuts right through to
the issue. What difference will it make to anyone who is not in
the actual leadership? You will be on the outside in any case.
Just as you challenge Moshe, you will have to challenge Korach...
“SImilarly, in your case,” Rav Chaim explained to the Chassidim,
“One has been chosen. His judgement has been questioned by
others, but those outside the seat of power will always question
judgement. If they come to power, their judgement, too, will be
In spite of all the miracles which Moshe Rabbeinu had performed,
there would always be criticism. The people on the outside are
always going to complain. Moshe had to demonstrate that Hashem
wasn’t merely going along with Moshe, but that Hashem was
leading, and Moshe following.
Concepts and Mussar from Kelm
Rav Simcha Zissel Ziev -- The 'Alter' of Kelm
Translated from the original
One of the students anonymously summarizes the tenth letter.
We see here the aim of mussar -- to first flee from wrong-doing,
and only then to take hold of the good. (1) Although the pursuit
of good is ultimtely greater, (2) nonetheless, running from evil
takes precedence; it is more of an immediate necessity. One must
initially be careful not to stumble. Until then, how can he
rejoice in his pursuit of good? Who knows, if, and to what
degree, the ‘good’ which he pursues, is truly ‘good’?
An amazing demonstration of this concept is found in the Gemara
(Kiddushin 31b). Two orphans, Rebbi Yochanan and Abaye, claimed
they were fortunate because the overwhelming responsibility to
honor one’s parents is very difficult to fulfill. This is a
great, wonderful principle -- very comprehensive. (3)
1. "Turn from evil and accomplish good." T'hilim (Psalms 34:15).
2. See Ramban, Commentary to the Torah, Shmos (Exodus 20:8).
Also see the supercommentary of Rav Chaim Dov Chavel, ibid. for
3. It is amazing to think that one would be grateful for not
being able to fulfil a mitzva... Rav Simcha Zissel uses this to
back up the idea that one should be concerned about erring before