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KorachIn this week's parashah we learn about the quarrel which Korach and his cohorts organized against Moshe Rabbeinu and his brother, Aharon, the Kohein Gadol. All of the quarrelers were severely punished as the Torah tells us: "The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all the people who were with Korach, and the entire wealth. They and all that was theirs descended alive to the pit; the earth covered them over and they were lost from among the congregation. All Israel that was around them fled at their sound, for they said, 'Lest the earth swallow us!' And a flame came forth from Hashem and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense" (Bemidbar 16:32-35).
The Torah wants us to remember this terrible incident and refrain from the awful sin of quarrelling with others. Consequently, we are commanded: "that he not be like Korach and his assembly, as Hashem spoke about him through Moshe" ( Ibid. 17:5).
Unfortunately, this mitzvah is very much neglected and wherever we go we find Jews quarrelling with each other. I once heard a very cute vort from Reb Yankele Galinsky, shlita, - cute, but, sadly, very true.
At the beginning of the parashah, Rashi comments that, "this parashah is beautifully expounded in the Midrash of Rabbi Tanchuma." Rav Galinsky explained that when a traveling maggid (preacher) comes to a new town, before he delivers his sermon he asks the local rabbi what issues he should address. What special grievances or problems plague the town, about which he should speak? In some places he is told that the townspeople are lax in giving charity. Sometimes the rabbi tells him to encourage the congregants to send their children to schools which teach Torah. And sometimes the rabbi complains that Shabbos observation is poor. All of these are things which the speaker could not have known about without speaking to the leader of the congregation. However, "this parashah - the parashah of machalokes - is beautifully expounded;" a preacher may expound upon it wherever he goes without even asking the rabbi if his town suffers from quarrelling. He may assume that the problem exists there too and may expound about it in his speech.
There are very few who succeed in fulfilling this mitzvah properly and are at peace with all people, groups and factions, regardless of their beliefs and practices. Most people are only on good terms with their own cliques and with those who think as they do. One beautiful individual, who, among his many other virtues, was an outstanding man of peace, was Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, ztvk"l. In my humble opinion, Reb Shlomo Zalman was a specimen of the "perfect individual" which the Torah wants us all to be. In all situations, he greeted every Jew with his wide, never ending smile, which displayed his sincere love for him. He saw the good in everyone and focused upon it always.
In Israel, where many people are very strongly dedicated to their religious beliefs, there are unfortunately many factions and much segmentation. Most people, including rabbis, are members of this group or the other or this or that party. Since people here seem to believe that they are required to convince, or even force, others to think as they do, there is unfortunately a lot of machalokes, not only between the observant and the non-observant, but even among the observant themselves. Although many rationalize their quarrels by pointing out the expect benefits, Reb Shlomo Zalman said that he would waive everything in order to avoid quarrel. No matter how hard others would try to enlist him to their cause, he was amazingly successful in dodging their requests and even the pressures of many of his influential peers.
One story of many is told in the inspiring book HaTorah Hamesamachas in the name of one of his close helpers, Refael Dovid Goldvicht z"l.
The Chareidi (Ultra-Orthodox) political parties Agudas Yisroel (consisting mainly of Hassidic groups) and Degel Hatorah (consisting mainly of those of Lithuanian descent) had some major disagreements. A distinguished rabbi visited Reb Shlomo Zalman and tried very hard to influence the elderly sage to opinionate himself publicly on the issues of debate. Reb Shlomo Zalman politely refused, again and again, but that rabbi stubbornly persisted. Seeing that his guest was not about to give up, Rav Auerbach finally said to him, "Look and understand. I am, already, no longer in this world - I am in the World of Truth. From there, no one interferes any more in the goings on in this world!"
The younger rabbi was shocked to hear these heart-breaking words and quickly left.
However, a week later, the two of them met at a bris (circumcision ceremony). The younger rabbi did not hesitate to approach Reb Shlomo Zalman and say with a smile, "I see that the Rav is still, thank G-d, in this world with us. This being the case, perhaps the venerable Rabbi would agree to make his opinions, the opinions of the Torah, known and teach the congregation the proper path to follow in."
Reb Shlomo Zalman immediately replied, "You are mistaken. I am, indeed, in the World of Truth. I just came here to this bris together with the Prophet Elijah (who, according to Tradition, attends every bris)!" And with that, the Man of Peace quickly turned and walked away from the pestering rabbi.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network