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Beloved Children

by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Parshas Korach

Do Not Interfere When Children Fight

And Moshe sent to call Dasan and Aviram, the sons of Eli'av; but they said, We will not come up.
(BAMIDBAR 16:12)

The Chasam Sofer decided that because of the changes brought about by the Reform movement, Orthodox Jews should create separate communities for themselves in Hungary. However, first it was necessary to receive royal approval for this. Therefore, the rabbis sent a delegation of five of the most famous rabbis and tzaddikim of Hungary to the Kaiser, Franz Josef. Among the delegation were Rabbi Yehudah Assad, the famous author of Yehudah Ya'aleh, Rabbi Akiva Yoseph, and his father-in-law, Rabbi Hillel of Kolomy. Rabbi Akiva Yoseph, in his sefer Bris Olam, relates that the night before their meeting with the Kaiser, he was lodging with his father-in-law. In the middle of the night he was awakened by Rabbi Hillel, who asked him, "Are you asleep?"

Rabbi Akiva Yoseph replied that he was awake.

"Do you see anything?" asked Rabbi Hillel of his son-in-law.

"No," came the answer. After a while Rabbi Hillel asked again, "Do you see anything?"

Again Rabbi Akiva Yoseph replied, "No, I don't see anything."

After that, Rabbi Hillel woke him once again with the same question, and once again Rabbi Akiva Yoseph gave the same reply. But this time Rabbi Hillel explained, "I just saw the Chasam Sofer in a dream and he told me, "You have prayed well. Go to the Kaiser, and your mission will be successful."

The next morning the entire delegation went to the Kaiser's palace. They found all the gates open, with no guard or anyone else to stop them or ask them questions; so they walked right in to the palace grounds. The Kaiser was taking his morning stroll, wearing a simple house robe.

When the Kaiser saw them he exclaimed, "Five angels!"

The members of the delegation had removed their hats, as is customary when standing before a king. Rabbi Assad approached the king and said, "If His Majesty will allow it, I would like to put on my hat so that I can recite the blessing we say when we see a king." The Kaiser graciously answered, "Of course, but please wait a minute."

Then the Kaiser went into the palace and put on his crown, and afterwards Rabbi Assad and the others recited the berachah, "Who has imparted of His honor to flesh and blood." Afterwards the Kaiser asked them the purpose of their visit.

The rabbis had originally planned that one of them, a student of the Chasam Sofer, would present their request; but now he found himself unable to open his mouth. The Kaiser realized that the young man was overcome with awe before him and therefore could not speak. He said, "Instead of speaking, just put your request in writing, and whatever you wish I will grant."

They immediately wrote their request, that the Kaiser give them the necessary recognition so that they could function as a separate community with due legal authority.

The Kaiser took their request and, without even reading its contents, folded it. This was the royal sign that the request had been granted.

Afterwards, the Kaiser was about to take leave of his five guests, but first he asked for a blessing from Rabbi Assad, who appeared to him as handsome as an angel. Rabbi Assad blessed him with a long life and a long and successful reign. It is known that the blessing was fulfilled, for the Kaiser was still reigning at the age of eighty-four.

When they left the Kaiser, they met the palace director, who was astonished to discover that five strangers had entered the palace without any hindrance. He asked them, "How did you enter without permission?"

They answered, "No, we are not entering. We are leaving."

Upon hearing this he was so astonished that he simply walked away.

The Kaiser knew that he need not interfere with the internal disputes within the Jewish community, and therefore he granted the rabbis' request graciously. Similarly, we must learn when not to interfere in our children's quarrels.

Our Rabbis have taught: Four actions cause a person to be considered a rasha, a wicked person.

The first of these is for someone to raise his hand to hit another person. Even if he does not actually hit him, he is still considered to be a wicked person, as it is written, "And he said to the wicked person, why will you hit your friend?" "Why have you hit" is not written, but rather, "Why will you hit." This signifies that even though the person has not yet done anything, but only plans to hit another person and proves this by raising his hand, he is already considered a rasha.

The second action involves borrowing money and failing to pay it back, as it is written, "A wicked person borrows and does not repay."

The third action is being impudent and not being ashamed before one who is greater, as it is written, "A wicked man shows his brazenness...."

The fourth and final action is to cause arguments, as it is written, "Please turn away from the tents of these wicked people."

Dasan and Aviram possessed two of these serious faults they were impudent and they caused dissension.

"And Moshe got up and he went to Dasan and Aviram." From here we learn that a person should not be stubborn in argument, as we see that even though Moshe was the leader, he was not concerned about his own personal honor, but rather went to see Dasan and Aviram in an attempt to stop their argument. As Rav said, "Those who are stubborn in argument transgress a negative commandment, as it is written, 'that he be not as Korach and his congregation.'" Rav Ashi said, "He who is stubborn in argument deserves to become a leper."

Rav Chisda said, "Those who disagree with their rabbi are considered as if they have disagreed with the Holy Presence, as it is written, 'When they strove against the L-d.'
(YALKUT 751)

What is so terrible about raising your hand against someone, when you are not actually harming the other person by doing this? Why is borrowing and not paying back worse than any other monetary transgression? What is wrong with being impudent and not being ashamed of this? Why is causing arguments such an evil trait? Why is someone who is stubborn punished with leprosy rather than with some other punishment? Why must a person relinquish his honor in order to avoid being stubborn in an argument? Why is someone who disagrees with his rabbi considered as if he has disagreed with G-d?

Raising Your Hand Involves Using Force

The first of these [in order to be called a rasha] is for someone to raise his hand to hit another person.
"A wicked person borrows and does not repay."

The reason it is so terrible to raise your hand against someone, even if you do not actually hit him, is that this shows that you are prepared to use physical force to gain your advantage. A human being has been given the gift of speech in order to be able to converse with others and attempt to convince them to accept his point of view. Thus there is no need for human beings to use force. An animal uses force, since it has no other way of conveying what it wants; but a human being must know that he is not always right, and therefore, he must be willing to discuss the matter rather than forcefully trying to impose his will on others.

Borrowing and not repaying your debt is worse than other monetary transgressions because it represents a breach of trust. Lending, according to the Torah, without collecting any interest, brings no gain to the lender and is therefore purely an act of kindness to help another person. When the other person does not repay what he has borrowed, he is accepting kindess and returning treachery. Someone who can do this is considered a rasha, since instead of feeling gratitude to someone who has done him a favor, he is repaying that person's kindness with a slap in the face.

From here we learn the importance of keeping track of any money we borrow. This is especially important regarding small loans, since a person easily forgets such amounts. Our Sages also warned us that we should not lend money unless there are witnesses to the loan, since the person borrowing might forget about it and transgress this serious prohibition.

A Jew is Not Brazen

"A wicked man shows his brazenness..."

What is wrong with being impudent and not being ashamed of this? Our Sages say, "Someone who is brazen will go to Gehinnom." They also say that the three characteristics of a Jew are that he does chessed, feels shame, and has mercy. This teaches us that feeling shame is essential to the nature of a Jew.

When a person is brazen he can commit whatever sin he wants to, since there is nothing to restrain him. There are many things a person might want to do but does not do because he does not want to embarrass himself. But once he loses the feeling of shame, all the doors of sin are open to him.

Don't Cause Arguments

The fourth [in order to be called a rasha]... is to cause arguments,...

What is wrong with causing arguments? The arguments referred to here are those that belittle known and established authority. Moshe Rabbenu was accepted by all of Israel because of the miracles he had performed, and he was known as the faithful messenger of G-d, as the verse says, "In all of My house he is trustworthy." When Korach and his associates came to discredit Moshe, this was in effect an attempt to discredit G-d, as the verse says, "You and all your company that are gathered together are against G-d." This sort of argument commonly arises from feelings of envy. When someone holds a high position which others envy, he will often be resented, as if he had done something wrong or had unjustly taken the position for himself. Others might feel that he was singled out unjustly, whereas they should have been the ones to be singled out, since they believe themselves to be more outstanding.

This could be the reason that someone who is stubborn and not willing to stop arguing receives the punishment of leprosy. A leper is singled out by not being allowed inside the camp, and he must remain alone, as the verse says, "He shall be alone, outside of the camp shall be his sitting place." In other words, G-d is telling the one who is full of envy and wishes to be singled out that his wish will be granted and he will indeed be singled out, but instead of gaining honor by this, it will be a source of disgrace for him, for he will be singled out as a leper.

Learn to Give In

...Even though Moshe was the leader, he was not concerned about his own personal honor, but rather went to see Dasan and Aviram in an attempt to stop their argument.
Why should a person relinquish his own honor in order to avoid being stubborn in an argument? When arguments arise, often each party maintains his position only out of pride. Each refuses to show any weakness by giving in and being the one to lose the argument. He is not willing to do anything to settle the argument, for he feels this would demonstrate weakness.

Moshe, however, did not stand on ceremony due to pride, since on the contrary, he was the most modest person in the world. He felt that if he were to go over to Dasan and Aviram and plead with them to change their minds, that might make an impression on them and cause them to give in. He did not care that he would be seen as showing weakness if he approached them, since the important thing was to end the argument, and he cared nothing for his own pride.

Respecting Our Rabbis

"Those who disagree with their rabbi are considered as if they have disagreed with the Holy Presence..."

Our rabbis, from whom we learn Torah, represent our connection with G-d. If someone disagrees with his rabbi it is considered as if he has disagreed with G-d, because our rabbis teach us what G-d wants of us, through His commandments. Therefore great respect must be given to rabbis, since respecting them means respecting the Torah and respecting G-d. If someone truly honors and obeys G-d, than he will also have great reverence for his rabbi. If, on the other hand, a person disagrees with his rabbi and questions his authority, this shows he is lacking in his respect for G-d.

Is Your Child a Rasha?

Our Sages mention in the above midrash that even raising your hand to hit a person qualifies you as a rasha. We all know that fighting is common among children, and they may even strike each other. How should we react when this happens?

Obviously, we cannot categorize our children as wicked when they do such a thing. They are still young, and do not have enough common sense to control themselves. When they become angry, they react impulsively, and do not wait until they are feeling more rational. We must take this into consideration, otherwise we may react too harshly.

If we react out of anger, we will be making the same mistake as our children. Be careful to react only when you are calm and have regained control of yourself.

We must be prepared with the right strategy, since we should not over-react, nor are we allowed not to react. What, then, is the proper response?

When a Child Hits a Sibling

The golden rule of fighting among children is "Don't mix in!" It is their fight and their business, and you should stay out of it. If you interfere, you might be blamed for taking sides. Also, you will gain nothing by interfering.

When you wish to admonish them for fighting, wait until they calm down. They will not hear you in the middle of a fight. Later on you can tell them what is wrong with fighting.

Even when they hit each other, as long as no one is hurt, it is still considered normal. Certainly it will not help to tell them not to hit each other. They will forget what you said as soon as you stop talking.

It would be much wiser to find ways to promote friendship among siblings. You can encourage them to compete in showing chesed to each other, or you can offer a prize for the sibling who does not answer back. When they know that they have something to gain, it is easier to conquer the yetzer hara.

When a Child Hits a Neighbor's Child

Amother once told me that a neighbor's child violently pushed her child to the ground. When she reprimanded the neighbor for not educating her child, the neighbor said, "I asked a rabbi and he said not to make a big deal out of his aggressiveness."

I do not know which rabbi said such a thing, but he certainly did not mean that it was all right for the child to harm other children. You can train your children as you wish, but you cannot let them harm other children. They have no right to hit anyone, no matter how aggressive they may be. This should be conveyed very firmly to your children. They are not allowed under any circumstances to harm other children.

What the rabbi may have meant was that among siblings, it is quite normal to fight. But when there is brutality, this is not normal and cannot be tolerated at all. We cannot allow our children to be menaces to others.

Do Not Judge Hastily

Agirl came running to her father to complain that her older brother had hit her. The father's first impulse was to go over to his son and punish him for beating his younger sister.

But he took hold of himself and, remembering my advice, decided not to act impulsively for two reasons. First of all, it is much wiser not to interfere when children are fighting. This is their business, and parents should not get involved. Second of all, he thought that he should hear the brother's side of the story, since it was unlikely that the boy would hit his sister without provocation.

When he asked him what had happened, the boy told him that his sister had locked him out of the house when he was afraid that some neighbors might attack him. Although he had begged her to open the door, she would not let him in.

Obviously she had committed a serious crime against her brother, and his reaction was understandable. The father was glad that he had not interfered, since they were truly both to blame, and why should he punish one and not the other.

Fights at Bedtime

On my radio show in Israel, a mother called to raise the problem of her children fighting at bedtime. The siblings could not get into bed without fighting. She asked for my advice.

I told her that my brother and I, when we were children, would always fight. We were so wild, that we would scribble insults to one another on the bedroom walls. In spite of our actions, our parents did not interfere. My brother became a rosh yeshivah, and I became a rabbi and an author. So it seems that our fighting did not harm our education.

I told the mother that children's fighting is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. As long as no real harm is done to one another, there is no need for parents to interfere. I do not know of a single family whose children do not fight with each other. This is their way of learning to interact within a family group. They have to find out through their own experience that it does not pay to fight.

When we learn to interfere in our children's lives at the right time, then they will appreciate our understanding, and they will always be ready to turn to us when they need help.

1. Shemos 2:13
2. Tehillim 37:21
3. Mishlei 21:29
4. Bamidbar 16:26
5. Ibid., 16:25
6. Ibid., 17:5
7. Ibid., 26:9
8. Bava Metzia 75b
9. Avos 5:20
10. Yuma 79a
11. Bamidbar 12:7
12. Ibid., 16:11
13. Vayikra 14:36
14. Bamidbar 12:3

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