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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Korach

The Tragedy of Machlokes

(Adapted from Sichos Mussar, by Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zt"l, Rosh Yeshivas Mir, Yerushalayim)

"…and Dosan and Aviram went out standing upright at the entrance of their tents together with their wives, their children, and their infants" (16:27).

Rashi: "Come and observe the severity of dispute. The earthly courts do not punish until [an accused] is physically mature, and the heavenly court does not punish until one reaches the age of twenty, but here even nursing babes were punished." [Midrash Tanchuma Korach 3]

This is absolutely astounding. Why should little children perish due to machlokes? If their parents were wrong, why are they punished?

Poisonous Roots

It seems that this is very similar to what we find in Chazal regarding the ben soreh u'moreh (the rebellious son) (Sanhedrin 107a). "Why is this parsha juxtaposed to the parsha of the yefas to'ar (the beautiful captive woman)? To teach that one who marries such a woman will eventually give birth to a rebellious son." The Ramban (Devorim 29:17) explains that everything emanates from its roots. And since the roots in this marriage are rotten, so will be the children. The father strayed after his heart, so the roots automatically sprout such a son. The Torah delved into the recesses of this boy's heart that he would eventually eat his father out of house and home. And when he won't be able to find the means to support his lustful and expensive habits, he would become a highwayman and turn to thievery.

With this insight we can understand why little babies have to perish because of machlokes. When the parents are by nature argumentative, this is a root that will sprout rotten weeds. Their children afterwards will continue in their argumentative ways and even more so. The rotten root sprouts poisonous flowers. Therefore it is better that these little babies should die when they are still pure and not after a lifetime of sins. (This is the same rationale behind the din of the ben soreh u'moreh: "It is better he should die innocent and not guilty.") Now we can fully appreciate Rashi's statement, "Come and see the severity of dispute." Come and see how far the poison goes. The poison in the root of machlokes will eventually sprout bitter plants in the children; therefore the Torah had to take them away while yet innocent babies.

The House of the Satan

Chazal tell us (Yalkut Shimoni Parshas Naso sec. 711): R. Eliezer ben R. Eliezer Hakapor said, "How great is shalom. Even when Klal Yisroel are worshipping idols, if they have shalom amongst them it is as if Hakadosh Baruch Hu has told the Satan not to touch them. But if there is machlokes among them, then the possuk says, 'Their heart has split; now they are desolate (Hoshea 10:2).'"

Machlokes is so tremendously poisonous it destroys even the tzaddikim and the finest individuals. The Yerushalmi in Peah (1:1) states, "The generation of Dovid were entirely tzaddikim. But since they had within them loshon hora, they went out to battle and fell…. On the other hand, the generation of Achav were idol worshippers. But since there was no loshon hora amongst them, they went out to battle and were victorious." (The gemara then gives the example that even though it was public knowledge that Ovadia was hiding 100 prophets in a cave, no one divulged this to Izevel.)

What we see from all this, is that the Satan dwells amongst machlokes and division. But wherever there is shalom the Satan cannot enter. This fact is told over in the gemara (Gittin 52a), "There was a couple who, being egged on by Satan, quarreled every Friday afternoon. R. Meir once visited that place and stopped them from quarrelling there Friday afternoons. When he had finally made peace between them, he heard Satan say: Alas for me whom R. Meir has driven from his house!"

The Satan resides wherever there is machlokes. But wherever there is peace, he has no permission to enter. This gave R. Meir the power to drive him out of that house.

Why did the Satan come to start up with them specifically on Erev Shabbos? The nature of Shabbos is shalom, peace. It is the day of tranquility and rest. The Zohar comments on the possuk, "Don't kindle a flame on the day of Shabbos in all your dwellings" (Shemos 35:3). Besides its simple meaning of prohibiting the kindling fire on Shabbos, it has a very deep homiletic interpretation as well. Don't light the fire of machlokes on Shabbos. And since Shabbos is so averse to machlokes, the Satan tried with all his might, right then just as Shabbos was entering, to fan the flames of machlokes.

Machlokes - Good and Bad

The Mishne in Avos (5:17) tells us, "Any dispute which is for the sake of Heaven will last; but what is not for the sake of Heaven will not last. What was a machlokes lesheim shomayim? The machlokes between Shammai and Hillel. What was not for the sake of Heaven? The machlokes of Korach and his entire group." The Rambam explains, "One who argues not with the intent of defeating his opponent, but rather because he wants to know the truth; his words will last and never cease."

The Rambam is teaching us what a machlokes for the sake of Heaven is, and what a machlokes not for the sake of Heaven is. When both sides are prepared to hear each other out, and if the other side can convince him of the veracity of his argument, he will agree with him, then this is a machlokes lesheim shomayim. He is only arguing because he is convinced that his opinion is correct. But he is open to hear the other side and be convinced the other way. But if not, if he is arguing and has no intention of changing his mind, that is a machlokes not lesheim shomayim.

In the machlokes of Korach and his group, Chazal have told us (Yalkut Shimoni sec. 703), "Moshe sent all these messages to Korach in order to try to appease him. But we don't find that Korach or anyone else answered him. Korach was very smart. He said to himself, 'If I answer him, he is very clever and will win the argument. I will be forced to give in. It is better that I shouldn't even relate to what he says.' When Moshe saw there was no purpose in speaking with him, he pulled back. Then he sent messages to Dosan and Aviram. But they, too, stood firm in their evil and refused to answer him."

Korach and his gang are the epitome of a machlokes not for the sake of Heaven. Not only did they start the dispute, but they weren't interested in hearing Moshe's side. They were afraid they would have to agree.

This is what we find in the gemara (Eruvin 13b), "Why did Beis Hillel merit to have the halacha determined according to their opinion? Because they stated their opinion together with that of Beis Shammai. Moreover, they quoted Beis Shammai first.

This conduct of theirs is well founded in halacha (Sanhedrin 7b): "it is prohibited from a dayan to hear one side before the second side comes." The Rambam (Sefer Hamitzvos §281) explains that we are concerned that the dayan will by nature form a predisposition according to what the first person says. This is further explained in the Ralbag (Mishlei 18:17) that a person naturally accepts the first impression as truth. Then when he hears a different version, he will not believe it and will proceed to cross examine it very scrupulously.

The dayan knows that the first person has a biased opinion and that when the second party comes he will deny the veracity of the facts and make counterclaims. And in spite of this, the first version enters his consciousness and sets his initial impressions of the case. Therefore, Chazal prohibited a dayan from hearing one side without the presence of the second party.

We can take this logic even further. If that is true about someone else's version about the facts, what about one's own opinion which he formed on his own? He has come to the conclusion that he is right, and this is set in his psyche as the absolute truth. Now, if someone comes to contradict his opinion, he won't be able to hear him at all. He is obviously contorting and confusing the issues.

Beis Hillel loved the truth to such an extent that they realized that they must state Beis Shammai's opinion before their own in order to offset any slight imbalance in their own favor. This love of truth led to the halacha being determined according to their opinion. This is the meaning of Chazal's statement that Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel is an example of a machlokes for the sake of Heaven. Their purpose in arguing was totally for the sake of arriving at the truth, just like the Rambam explained.

"Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, when they speak with their enemies in the gate" (Tehillim 127:5). What is meant by "with their enemies in the gate"? - Said R. Chiya bar Abba, Even father and son, master and disciple, who study Torah at the same gate (i.e. same yeshiva, or same subject) become enemies of each other; yet they do not stir from there until they come to love each other, for it is written, "[Wherefore it is said it, the book of the wars of the Lord,] love is be-sufah [a play on words of the Hebrew ??? reading it as ???)" (Bemidbar 21:24). Read not "be-sufah" (reeds) but "be-sofah" (at the end - meaning disputations in learning Torah eventually lead to love). (Kiddushin 30b)

Rashi explains that at first they become enemies by throwing questions at each other and refusing to accept the other's opinion. Each one initially feels that the other is veering from the truth. Therefore he becomes like an enemy. But after the give and take of the discussion they both come to the point of truth. Their intention was not to win the argument. They both only wanted to bring out the truth (Meiri). Once they see that their argument succeeded in getting to the truth of the matter, they naturally come to love one another.

Rav Yochanan and Reish Lakish were learning partners. When Reish Lakish passed away Rav Yochanan was exceedingly distraught. He couldn't find someone comparable to Reish Lakish. "When I would say something, he would ask me 24 questions, and I would be forced to give 24 answers. In this way the gemara became extremely clear." (Bava Metzia 84a)

There is nothing which increases love and friendship as the resolution of questions and the clarity of understanding that comes from difference of opinions and lively discussion. This is the meaning of the "love that comes at the end."

The Blessing of Shalom

Shalom and harmony are the basis of everything. They were the basis that brought Klal Yisroel to receive the Torah. "Being that Yisroel despise machlokes and love peace, now is the time that I shall give them the Torah (Derech Eretz Zuta, chap. Shalom).

Machlokes is a terrible thing. How many holy yeshivos endured through extremely difficult times, but in the end they were destroyed because of machlokes. The Beis Medrash is a little Beis Hamikdash, a dwelling place for the Shechina. Hakadosh Baruch Hu has nowhere to dwell in this world except in the 4 amos of halacha. Machlokes causes the shechina to depart and allows this place to become the dwelling place of the Satan.

"And He was King in Yeshurun, at the gathering of the heads of the people, and the tribes of Israel were together" (Devorim 33:5). "When Yisroel are together with brotherhood and friendship. Then Hakadosh Baruch Hu is king over them. But when there is machlokes, it is as if Hakadosh Baruch is not their king" (Daas Zekeinim mi-Baale Tosfos).

Klal Yisroel is the place of the Shechina "Who dwells with them" (Vayikra16:16). This can only be when there is shalom, and friendship amongst them. Then Hakadosh Baruch is their king. But when there is machlokes, chas v'shalom, they become the house of the Satan and Hakadosh Baruch Hu is not their ruler. Hashem should bless His people with shalom.

Gut Shabbos!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
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