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Soul to soul



“The remnant of the meal-offering is for Aharon and his sons” (Vayikra 2:3)

Rashi explains that the Kohen Gadol took his portion off the top, and the other kohanim made an equal division of the remainder of the meal-offering between themselves.

The Masuk Ha’or offers a homiletic explanation, interpreting the word “division” to mean “disunion” or “disconnection.” He says that the Kohen Gadol was a great person in his own merit, on the highest spiritual level, and did not need to create any division in order to declare himself. This is unlike ordinary people who often find it necessary to create divisiveness and discord in order to gain recognition and public awareness.

The Pri Chaim cites a Medrash that the fruit-bearing trees are asked, “Why is your sound not audible?” and they respond, “We do not need it. Our fruits testify for us.” When the non-fruit-bearing trees are asked, “Why is your sound audible?” they answer, “Would that our voice could be heard so that we would be seen.”

The Pri Chaim continues that, likewise, when a dispute arises within the community it is usually because some unremarkable individuals who have no stature wish to make a statement. By spawning dissension they create an atmosphere of activity within the community which lends recognition and credence to their position. An esteemed and venerable individual, on the other hand, avoids disputes at all costs, because ultimately peace and diplomacy are most effective. Disunity only brings shame and scandal. In fact, machlokess (discord) is so egregious that it has the power to propagate the defamation of Klal Yisroel.

Rav Aharon Leib Steinman, one of the Torah leaders of our generation, says that many shomrei Torah umitzvos (people who adhere to the Torah and mitzvos) believe that the obligation to do teshuvah lies with those outside the Torah camp who eat non-kosher. In truth, though, he says, we who partake of the non-kosher of baseless hatred and lack of peace between fellow-men are just as liable.

Rav Steinman speculates on the possibility that the sin of machlokess may be the cause of so many tragedies that have shaken the Jewish community. One may ask why an individual who did not participate in any dispute is punished, and Rav Steinman offers two explanations. Firstly, there is the matter of areivus – responsibility. We are all responsible one for the other. Secondly, one may have heard about an ongoing dispute and either accepted the veracity of it or, even worse, reveled in the gossip. Nevertheless, either circumstance inescapably connects the individual to the feud.

Shlomo HaMelech tells us (Mishlei 24:17), “When your foe falls do not be glad, and when he stumbles let your heart not be joyous.” Not only that, but just as we are adjured (Tehillim 34:15) to “sur meira – turn away from evil,” we are also obligated to “aseh tov,” e.g. have positive feelings for the other person. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch elaborates that when one does a mitzvah or a good deed he must ensure that the act was not facilitated by the commission of an aveiroh. Nor should his performance of the mitzvah or good deed incur any negative consequences. However, most deplorable, says the Ahavas Shalom, is a mitzvah that brings about machlokess.

At the end of the yom tov of Succos, Hashem says to the Jewish nation, ”kashe alai pridaschem – your separation is difficult for Me.” It is explained didactically that it is the separation and disunity amongst the members of Klal Yisroel that is difficult for Hashem. Therefore, one should forgo the performance of a mitzvah or a good deed if there is even the slightest chance that it will result in any discord and controversy, because that will overshadow any positive benefits that may have been intended.

A community in the Midwest had made great strides in their Yiddishkeit, and the leaders of the kehillah decided to hire a rabbi to open a full-fledged yeshiva and further inspire them spiritually. A talmid chacham who had learned in Lithuania before the Second World War was engaged.

After a while, the baalebatim realized that that his lack of mastery of the English language was limiting his ability to relate to the younger people, and the anticipated growth of the kehillah was stagnating. Some of the baalebatim offered to make a major investment in order to invite a group of young rabbinical students from Lakewood to settle in their community and open a new yeshiva. It was felt that they would more easily be able to connect with the youth in the community and succeed where the older rabbi was failing.

The yungeleit (young men) from Lakewood did not want to make any move without consulting daas Torah (guidance from a Torah leader), and made an appointment to meet with the great Gaon HaRav Moshe Feinstein ztl.

After listening to their presentation, R’ Moshe said, “Since there seem to be those in the community who are very happy with the Rav they have appointed, if another yeshiva would be established it would create divisiveness and machlokess within the community. One must run from controversy as one flees from fire.” To their concern that without their input there could be a possibility of a decline in the community’s enthusiasm for Yiddishkeit, R’ Moshe contended that a situation of wrangling and discord augured much worse.

The young men followed R’ Moshe’s advice and did not accept the invitation to join the community. After a while, the Rav himself realized he was not being successful and he traveled to none other than R’ Moshe to seek his guidance. R’ Moshe advised him to recruit some rabbinical students from Lakewood to move into his community and join him in his efforts. The Rav followed R’ Moshe’s suggestion. The infusion of yungeleit injected a new spirit into the community, and the community flourished in Torah and Yiddishkeit.

Rav Steinman notes that avoiding machlokess is so important that there is a unique tefillah that one can recite near the end of Shemone Esrei, “May it be Your will, Hashem, that I should be careful to abstain from lashon hara, disputes, and baseless hatred. Please enroot in my heart and in the heart of all Your people, Klal Yisroel, a love between man and his fellow-man. And may it be established within us to always find favor and good understanding in the eyes of Hashem and man.”