These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: #1166 Do You Really Need Ten for a Minyan? Good Shabbos!
Rabbi of Smyrna & Rabbis Shach, Shteinman, and Sofer Share Same Shalom Sentiment
Various Torah Parshas lend themselves to specific homiletic topics. For example, Parshas Chayei Sarah is an appropriate time to talk about shidduchim (courtship and matrimony); Parshas Vayera is an appropriate time to talk about hachnosas orchim (hospitality); Parshas Korach is the parsha of machlokes (argumentation) and unfortunately, we all know that this topic is more relevant than many other parshas in the Torah because unfortunately people are always getting into machlokes.
Before getting into the body of the shiur, I want to share four comments from great individuals on this topic.
I saw written in the name of Rav Chaim Palagi (1788-1868; Smyrna, Turkey) “From the time I started having a modicum of intelligence, I noticed that man or woman, regardless of family, regardless of country – any party that was involved in machlokes – suffered from it. Neither side ever emerges unscathed and unhurt from machlokes.” Rav Palagi lived to a ripe old age, and said that he saw in his lifetime that when people get into protracted arguments—be it inter-family, inter-community, inter-city or intra-city—neither side ever wins. Both sides suffer, physically and financially. He says that any person with sechel (clarity of understanding) should walk away from machlokes even if they are right, whether it will cost them physically, financially, or in terms of their honor. Whatever one loses by walking away from machlokes, he will eventually get back. One will ultimately profit in this world and the next by virtue of the fact that he was a lover of peace and a pursuer of peace.
I further once heard in the name of Rav (Elazar) Shach (1899-2001; Bnei Brak), zt”l, that he never saw anyone who lost by walking away from machlokes. This means when a person faces a choice of losing money or making a machlokes, Rav Shach advised people to be mevater (to pass up the opportunity to “fight for what is rightly his”). He said that in his long lifetime, he never witnessed anyone who ultimately lost because he was mevater.
Finally, I received an email written by students of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman [1914-2017; Bnei Brak], (shlit”a), zt”l. It is written there, “We once asked our Rebbe (Rav Shteinman), “When the machlokes between Korach and Moshe began, how were the innocent bystanders supposed to know who was right?” On the one hand there was Moshe Rabbeinu—he certainly had credentials of his own. But on the other hand, there were 250 people. These were not 250 peasants. These were 250 Roshei Sanhedraos (distinguished people) and they were presenting reasonable complaints. How should they have known with which side the truth resided? Rav Shteinman answered (in rhyming Hebrew) Mi she’Shosek hu ha’Tzodek. He who keeps quiet—he is the one who is right. That is the sign.
The pasuk says “It is He Who makes your borders peaceful (ha’Sam Gevulech Shalom) and with the cream of wheat (chelv chitah) He sates you.” (Tehillim 147:14). The Chasam Sofer used to say that every person has his own ‘red lines’ which he refuses to cross. He then interprets the pasuk as follows: Ha’Sam Gevulech Shalom—If your ‘red line’ (Gevulech – your border) is Shalom (Peace) then you will have a bounty of chelev chitah. It means that in the end, you are going to win.
This is the introduction to my discussion tonight about the evils and harm caused by machlokes.
The Unnamed Sinners Are Finally Called Out by Name
The parsha starts with the following pasuk: “And Korach, son of Yitzhor, son of Kehas, son of Levi separated himself, with Dassan and Aviram, son of Eliav, and Oon son of Peles, sons of Reuven.” [Bamidbar 16:1] Korach had 250 people on his side who said they also wanted to be Kohanim. They began arguing with Moshe Rabbeinu. Of the 250 men siding with Korach, the Torah specifically mentions Dassan and Aviram. This is the first time in the Torah where Dassan and Aviram are specifically mentioned by name. The Torah, however, alludes to them well before this.
First of all, according to the Medrash, they appear all the way back at the beginning of Sefer Shemos: “They said to them (to Moshe and Aharon): ‘May Hashem look upon you and judge, for you have made our very scent abhorrent in the eyes of Pharaoh and the eyes of his servants, to place a sword in their hands to murder us!'” [Shemos 5:21]. The Medrash says that the people who complained here to Moshe and Aharon that they ruined the reputation of Bnei Yisroel in the eyes of Pharaoh and his servants were none other than Dassan and Aviram.
Number two: In the famous story of Moshe witnessing the Egyptian beating the Jew, the Medrash says that an Egyptian taskmaster came into Dassan’s tent, sent Dassan out to work and had relations with Dassan’s wife. Dassan came back and found the taskmaster in bed with his wife and got into a fight with him. This was the context, according to the Medrash, of the Egyptian man hitting the Jew. It was that Egyptian taskmaster who was hitting Dassan. Moshe killed the Egyptian, thereby saving Dassan’s life. What does Dassan do? The next day when Moshe chastised Dassan for striking another Jew, Dassan went and reported to Egyptian authorities that Moshe killed an Egyptian.
A third place: According to the Medrash, the people who spoke up by Yam Suf and said, “Let’s appoint a new leader and return to Egypt” [Shemos 14:4] were Dassan and Aviram.
Number four was at the time of the Mann. Chazal say that when Moshe Rabbeinu said, “Don’t leave over Mann until morning” – who were the people who “did not listen to Moshe and left Mann over until the morning”? It was none other than Dassan and Aviram. [Shemos 16:19-20]
These two people have a list of indictments that is as long as an arm. So, if they started their mischief in Egypt and they were repeat offenders time and again, why is it only here that the Torah chooses to call them out by name?
Rav Ruderman, zt”l (Founding Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel) used to have an expression when something upset him. He would say (in Yiddish) “Dos iz ba’mir en record” – meaning, I am recording this. All the other times, the Ribono shel Olam does not write down their names, but when it comes to Machlokes—and they jumped into a Machlokes which was not even their own Machlokes—here the Ribono shel Olam writes their names: Dos iz ba’mir en record.
Dassan and Aviram can challenge Moshe Rabbeinu, they can report him, they can disobey his orders by the Mann, they can challenge him by the Yam Suf, BUT when they jump into a Machlokes, then the Ribono shel Olam records it for all eternity.
One Lost Glove Deserves Another
The final remark I wish to make comes with an incident:
When Korach and his companions challenge Moshe Rabbeinu, the Torah says “He fell on his face” [Bamidbar 16:4] – literally he collapsed! Rashi quotes the Medrash Tanchuma. Moshe had to fall on his face as a result of the machlokes, because this was already the fourth major iniquity involving the people. The nation already had three strikes against them. This was already the “fourth strike.”
Rashi continues: They sinned at the Golden Calf (Parshas Ki Sisa) and Moshe davened for them (Va’Yechal Moshe) (Shemos 32:11). They sinned with the complainers (Parshas Be’ha’Aloscha) and Moshe davened for them (Va’Yispalel Moshe) (Bamidbar 11:2). They sinned with the Spies (Parshas Shlach), and here too Moshe went to bat for Klal Yisrael (v’Sham’u Mitzrayim…v’Omru….) (Shemos 14:13-14). But by the Macholkes of Korach, his hands became weak. This time he just did not have the capacity to pray for their forgiveness.
Rashi cites the parable of the king’s son who rebelled against his father and the king’s friend appeased the king on his son’s behalf—once, twice, and three times. After that, the appeaser throws up his hands in despair. “I cannot go in anymore to petition the king on behalf of this chronically rebellious child.” There are only so many times that someone can go back to the well. There comes a point when the well dries up.
Why does Moshe not daven for Klal Yisrael here? He is ready to daven for Klal Yisrael but he cannot believe it is going to work, because how many times can someone go back?
Now, put yourself in Moshe Rabbeinu’s place. He is being attacked personally. His integrity is being challenged. Most people in that situation are interested and care about themselves, about their own reputation and status. But what is Moshe Rabbeinu worried about? What is going to be with Klal Yisrael? This is the ultimate selfless Jewish leader. It is not about me. I do not care about me. I do not care about my job or what they say about me. I care about what is going to be with my people. This is an example of self-denial and concern about others, which distinguishes Moshe Rabbeinu and makes him the ultimate manhig Yisrael (Jewish leader).
We are not necessarily leaders, but this capacity to think about somebody else—even in a moment of personal distress—is something which ideally should not be beyond our grasp.
The wife of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, predeceased her husband. He was in the hospital because his beloved wife had just died. A student of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach met his Rebbe in the corridor of the hospital (unaware that his Rebbe had just lost his wife). The wife of the student had just had a baby. The student came over to Rav Shlomo Zalman and said, “I just had a son (or daughter, whatever the case may have been)!” Rav Shlomo Zalman gave him a big smile and such a hearty “Mazal Tov!” Here in a moment of such sorrow, he was able to put his personal Tzores aside. This fellow deserves a Mazal Tov now and I will not let my personal problems dampen his Simcha. I will give him the 100% sincere and hearty Mazal Tov that his Simcha warrants, as if nothing had happened to me. There are people who do not live for themselves, but rather they live concentrating on the needs and feelings of others.
I read a very interesting story in the sefer Dorash Mordechai. Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz, the Mir Mashgiach, once boarded a train as the door was closing. He stuck out his hand, so the door would not close, and the door pulled off the glove he was wearing. The glove fell to the platform outside the train, as the train doors closed. Rav Levovitz lost his glove.
What did he do? He ran over to the open window of the train and threw out the other glove. The students who were with him asked him: “Why did you throw out the other glove?” He told them: “What am I going to do with one glove? This way, there is already one glove lying there on the station platform. If I throw out the other glove, now a person who finds them will have a decent pair of matching gloves. At least someone will have a pair of gloves.”
This is a small incident, but realize what this incident says. This was an instantaneous reaction. Okay, I lost my glove, but at least somebody will now have a pair of gloves. This is a demonstration of a person who is not wrapped up in himself, not self-possessed with his own problems and his own loss. Even in a moment of distress, it is possible to think about somebody else.
This is the Avodas HaChaim which we should try to learn. We should not only to be impressed by the attributes of our Gedolim, but we should try to practice the same in our daily lives.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Korach is provided below:
- 017 – Visiting the Sick
- 062 – May the State of Israel Extradite a Jewish Criminal?
- 106 – The Temple Mount Today-Obligations & Restrictions
- 151 – The Mitzvah of Pidyon Haben: Some Fascinating Facts
- 198 – The Ethiopian Jewry Question
- 244 – Tachanun
- 288 – “Masiach L’fi Tumoh”: The Coca Cola Question
- 334 – Leaving a Chasunah Before Benching
- 378 – Truth Telling to Patients
- 422 – Bais Din’s Power to Subpoena
- 466 – Tachanun: To Say Or Not To Say
- 510 – Pidyon Habein and Vending Machines
- 554 – The Kohain and the First Aliyah
- 598 – Siamese Twins
- 642 – Different Minhagim for Saying Kedusha
- 686 – Ma’alin B’Kodesh V’ain Moridin
- 730 – Divergent Minhagim in One Shul
- 774 – Tachanun: Most Fascinating Insights
- 818 – Bikur Cholim on Shabbos
- 862 – Preventative Medicine To Avoid Chilul Shabbos
- 906 – Tachanun Without a Sefer Torah?
- 950 – Pidyon Habein: Not Your Regular Cases
- 993 – Pidyon Habein Without A Bris Milah?
- 1037 – Should A Chosson Come To Shul During Sheva Brachos?
- 1081 – Ha’arama: Halachic Loopholes – Advisable or Not?
- 1124 – Segulos for Refuos
- 1166 – Do You Really Need Ten for a Minyan?
- 1209 – The Chasam Sofer’s Battle Against the Reform Movement
- 1254 – Why Shouldn’t You Park In a Handicap Space?
- 1298 – The Shul That Did Not Say Tachanun By Mistake; Now What? and Other Tachanun Issues
- 1342 – The Case of The Man Who Now Deines That He’s a Kohain
- 1386 – The Importance and Power of Saying Parshas Ketores
- 1430 – Should Chazanim be Paid?
- (2020) Tachanun on Mondays and Thursdays
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.