Let’s Not Lose Focus


    By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

    After the Yeshiva of Volozhin closed, Rav Chaim Soloveitchik returned to the city of Brisk and continued as its Rav.  There, he also focused on furthering the Brisker method and fine-tuned his 154 pieces on the Rambam that were soon to create a revolution in Torah learning.

    In the meantime, a huge machlokes developed concerning the shochet in Brisk.  Some accused the shochet of not being knowledgeable in the checking of the lungs of cows.  Others disagreed and stood behind the shochet and his knowledge.  The townspeople approached Rav Chaim and demanded that he examine the shochet.

    Rav Chaim, however, refused to do so.  He then explained that the requirement to check the lungs is Rabbinic in nature.  According to Torah law, there exists a majority that the lung is, in fact, free of blemishes.  Avoiding machlokes, however, is not a Rabbinic law – it is far more significant.  Creating a Machlokes is a Torah prohibition.  It is something from which we must stay far away.

    We need to make sure that we avoid machlokes in all our endeavors.

    The Chasam Sofer, ironically, pointed just how oblivious people can be.  In the town of Meharin, a debate broke out as to the correct nusach that is used during aseres yemei teshuvah.  Some vehemently argued that the Minhag in that town was to say oseh hashalom bimvorach on aseres yemei teshuvah.  Others vehemently argued that the town’s mihag was to say hamevarech as amo bashalom.  The Machlokes raged on.

    The irony, of course is apparent for all to see.

    The point is that often we lose focus as to what our priorities should be, and let us not let the yetzer hara get the best of us.

    There is a fascinating gemorah at the end of the ninth perek of Nedarim (66b).  A certain woman came over to the great sage, Bava Ben Buta and broke two candles over his head.  This is a tremendous chutzpah – imagine, chalila someone doing that over the head of one of the great sages of our time.

    And what was his reaction?  He gave her a bracha that she should have two children that would become gedolei hador.

    The background to the incident was as follows:  There was a man who came from Bavel and moved to Eretz Yisroel and married a woman there – notwithstanding some of the language differences.

    There were some misunderstandings between the two.  He asked for a bowl of lentils.  She cooked him just two lentil beans.  The next day he asked for a large amount.  She cooked a colossal amount.

    Ultimately he asked for two Besuni – which in Babylonian Aramaic means watermelons.  She brought her husband two candles instead because in Eretz Yisroel Besuni meant candles.  The husband was so frustrated that he told her to break them over the Baba – meaning the wall.  She broke them over the head of Baba Ben Butah while he was in the middle of sitting in judgement.

    One of the takeaways from this incident is that there will always be people with opinions with which we disagree.  No one in their right mind would break candles over the head of the gadol hador.  This is wrong and incorrect behavior.

    And yet, Baba Ben Buta observed her earnest desire to keep the shalom bayis in her house intact.  The shalom bayis dedication of this Herodian era Amelia Bedelia was extraordinary, notwithstanding other deficits in both understanding as well as proper social ettiquette.  For that shalom bayis dedication, he gave her a remarkable bracha.

    When we disagree with others regarding masks, minyan and all other subjects let us keep in mind that the motivations of our brethren stem from a desire to do the right thing.  We should learn from Baba Ben Buta to not call them names in anger – but to give them a bracha on their inner quality – even if we disagree.

    The author can be reached at [email protected]

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    1. With all due respect, I believe rav chaim shlita has said and written that following medical guidelines is a matter of pikuach nefesh, as have all other widely recognized poskim.

      Does he also believe that if Reuvain sees Shimon setting fire to a house full of people, Reuvain cannot say or do anything impolite to stop Shimon???

    2. “Creating a Machlokes is a Torah prohibition.”

      I think that formulation is too sweeping.

      1) It is necessary to define what exactly מחלוקת means.

      For example, is חילוקי דעות, disagreement, the same as מחלוקת?

      2) Sometimes a machlokes is allowed, or even warranted, e.g. a מחלוקת לשם שמים.

      3) חז”ל use a term of המחזיק במחלוקת, someone who holds on tightly to machlokes. That is not necessarily all disagreements seemingly.

      There is a difference between a feud and a disagreement.

    3. On the other hand, there are numerous gemarot, like today’s daf, which refer to punishments that occur from not giving proper tochachah. Not wearing a mask, is a perfect example, IMHO.


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