[Editor’s note: As a memory of my beloved brother Shaya, I would like to continue sending out his pearls of wisdom that he has shared with all of you in the past. For some of you this may ring a bell and for others it may appear to be totally new. May the learning of Shaya’s Divrei Torah inspire us to change our ways and thereby give an Aliya to the neshama of our dear beloved Shaya whom we miss so much. A special thank you to Aaron Friedman for always looking over the divrei torah.]
Two of the greatest sins Klal Yisroel committed in the desert were creating the Golden Calf and Korach’s dispute. When Moshe rebuked them in Parshas Devarim, he hinted at each sin by naming a place. ‘וחצרות’ refers to the dispute of Korach that is related in our Parsha. The next words ‘ודי זהב’ refer to the sin of the Golden Calf. We know that the sin of the Golden Calf occurred before the dispute of Korach, so why did Moshe switch around the chronological order of events?
I saw a novel answer in the name of Rav Yosef of Puzna:
Chazal say that even if Klal Yisroel worships idols, as long as we stand united, Hashem forgives us. R’ Yosef therefore suggests, that since Klal Yisroel was united before the dispute of Korach, Hashem forgave us for the sin of the Golden Calf. Hence, there was no need for Moshe to rebuke us for it. It was only after the dispute of Korach, which brought discord into Klal Yisroel, did we retroactively have to be punished for the Golden Calf. Therefore, Moshe initially rebuked the sin of Korach, and only afterwards the sin of the Golden Calf!
We see from the aforementioned Chazal how terrible machlokes is. Machlokes tears people apart, be it neighbors, friends, business partners, siblings, or spouses. It is a lose-lose situation, and the effects are horrific and long lasting.
However, the opposite, i.e. having peace, unity, and being Mevateir [giving in], are beautiful Midos to acquire, and are tremendously rewarding both in this world and in the world to come.
Here’s one story I heard from Rav Frand that illustrates this idea:
In Yeshivas Ponovez, there was a Chazan for the Yamim Noraim that was aging and could no longer be heard by the Tzibbur, unless they turned off the air conditioning in the sweltering Bnei Brak heat. The Tzibbur asked him to give up his position. He argued that it had been his position for more than thirty years and he had the right to this privilege. They went to Rav Shach, and both sides explained their reasonings. Rav Shach said, ‘you are both right’. And then he turned to the Chazan and said ‘I’m an old man, and I have NEVER seen in my life a person lose out by being mevateir.’ The Chazan got the message and gave up the position. Rav Frand said that he heard from reliable sources that that man had five children, each one struggling with a particular issue, and within that year all the problems were solved!
Let us all strengthen ourselves by learning from Korach’s mistake to distance ourselves from Machlokes, even when we think (and know!) we are right. Rav Chaim Shmulevitz explains that only Korach’s dispute with Moshe was one side 100 percent wrong and one side 100 percent right. But every other dispute in history after that will never be like that, i.e that both sides are partly to blame.
May we all do some soul searching to make sure we aren’t at odds with anyone else. And if there is anyone that we avoid or don’t talk to, let us gather the strength to make up. We will then G-d willing merit all the wonderful blessings that come when one is at peace with all.
Editor’s note:There was once a Yerushalmi Yid walking down a street on Shabbos when a car driven by a Jew passed by. Someone walking behind the Yerushalmi Yid heard him say something to himself as the car whizzed past. The curious person inched closer to the Yerushalmi Yid as another car approached and heard the Yid whisper two words… “Shabbos, Shabbos!”
Such a powerful story!
(This is a beautiful story that I heard a while ago. If someone knows the origin of the story, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!)
I thought of two lessons that we could learn from this story:
First is that so often, people get caught up in the heat of the moment and give rebuke/ protest loudly saying “you are wrong!” and “this is not how you are supposed to act!” They become so absorbed in the moment that they often lose sight of the bigger picture, failing to express their point to the other person involved in the argument. This Yerushalmi Yid, however, did nothing of this sort. He made a quiet protest that didn’t affect the person driving the car, and therefore didn’t create any machlokes.
Another lesson that I think could be learned from this story is that this Yerushalmi Yid felt it necessary to utter the words Shabbos every time a car past him. He felt it necessary EVERY time to remind himself of the fact that it is Shabbos. He didn’t just say to himself “Unfortunately that’s how things are…” How many times do we see someone desecrating Shabbos or any one of the other Mizvohs and let it slide? By letting it slide by, we are telling ourselves that this Aveirah is not so bad, which leads us to have a lower appreciation for what is holy. By reminding ourselves that Mitzvos are precious, we can avoid becoming desensitized and retain our values.
If you think of other lessons from this story, I would love to hear them.
Have a great Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos!}
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