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Avoiding Arguments

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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Avoiding Arguments

The son-in-law of the Noda B’yehuda (1713-1793), known as R’ Yosef Hatzadik[1] was asked by R’ Yisrael Yonah Landau[2] the following: There was a stunning chazzan for the Yamim Noraim who was a morally low person (קל שבקלים). Although the people appreciated his voice, the Rav knew he was morally low. He therefore felt he needed to make an uproar as how can they have such a Chazzan for the Yamim Noraim. R’ Yosef Hatzadik answered him in a letter מוטב שיעמוד צלם בהיכל…, it is better to set up an idol in the sanctuary than for there to be a machlokes amongst the Jewish people.[3]


We must avoid machlokes no matter what.[4] How do we say hello? With the word שלום. This same word is also how we say goodbye. This is because even if we disagree it is all within the context of peace, that we love each other.[5]


The Satmar Rebbe (1887-1979) vehemently disagreed with others yet he gave them Tzedaka because in essence he loved them.[6] The argument was within the context of peace.[7]


R’ Ovadia Yosef refers to R’ Elyashiv as ידידינו, our friend,[8] even though the styles of these two greats differed significantly.


Despite the seriousness and intensity of the clash between R’ Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld and R’ Kook regarding the Zionists, the dispute never invaded the personal realm, and each displayed his high regard for the other. Even at the height of the dispute, whenever R’ Yosef Chaim and R’ Kook would meet at a bris or wedding, they would engage each other in friendly conversation.


When R’ Gifter was considering closing his Yeshiva, the Lubavitcher Rebbe[9] sent a messenger to him R’ Gifter—who opposed[10] Chabad—saying that if he wants to close the Yeshiva because of financial reasons, he should rather leave it open and the Lubavitcher Rebbe takes full responsibility for the finances.[11]


There were two Chassidishe Rebbes that were involved in a machlokes.[12] When one of the Rebbes passed away, his son made peace with the other Rebbe. When his Chassidim asked how he could make peace with the other Rebbe if his father didn’t, he answered, “I don’t have the Torah or Tefilla of my father. So should I also hold on to the machlokes of his?!”[13]


When R’ Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz spoke about divisions that had plagued the Jewish people in the past, he would mention the following parable. There was a wealthy man with two sons-in-law, one who ate no meat and the other ate no dairy. For many years, the rich man fed them both in his house according to their tastes. One sat at one table with his family eating meat and the other sat at a second table with his family eating dairy. Eventually the father-in-law[14] lost his fortune and served the whole family bread and potatoes. He told his sons-in-law, “Now that I can’t afford meat or dairy delicacies,’ why sit at separate tables?” Similarly today, said R’ Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, we lack the greatness, the scholarship, the zeal and the intensity of those from earlier times—we have neither meat nor dairy—so there is no point eating at separate tables.


An avreich that was making a bris approached R’ Pam with the following dilemma. The grandmothers—named Rochel and Esther—of this new baby boy each had their husband pass away within the year. Consequently, each one was adamant to have the child named after their husband (and they weren’t willing to have the child be named after both grandfathers by combining the names). R’ Pam asked for more details and he decided that the grandmother named Rochel had more of a right to have the child named after her husband. He then asked the avreich for the phone number of Esther (the other grandmother). He called her and said that it is a great merit to have a child named after your husband but it’s even a greater merit to avoid machlokes. Therefore it’s better to relent and let the other grandmother have the child named after her husband. A few days later R’ Pam saw this avreich and asked him how the bris went. The avreich joked and said he had such problems, as a new argument ensued. The grandmother Rochel heard what R’ Pam told Esther and as a result each grandmother was willing to forgo naming the child after their deceased husband.[15]


We should all merit to fulfill the Pasuk[16] of בקש שלום ורדפהו, to seek and pursue peace.

[1] The Noda B’yehuda—1713-1793—wrote about this son-in-law, whenever I think of you, my entire body quakes and shakes from כבוד for you.

[2] He passed away in 1824. He belonged to a well-known rabbinical family. In his youth, he was Av Beis Din of Lubomil and from 1786 served in Kempen.

[3] The Sefer Shevet Mussar (chapter 37) tells us from Chazal that machlokes is so hard before Hashem as by the Eigel which transpired peacefully the מן didn’t stop…whereas with the machlokes of Korach the מן didn’t descend that day. The Shemen Rosh (1, p. 210) tells us a hint to this in the words of Mosheבקר וידע ה’ את אשר לו, in the morning, Hashem will make known who is His own (Bamidbar 16:5). It says about the מןוילקטו אתו בבקר בבקר, they gathered it morning by morning (Shemos 16:21). Moshe said realize this machlokes isn’t לשם שמים because when you go out in the morning to get the מן you won’t find it and then Hashem will make known to you who is His.

[4] The Yam Shel Shlomo (Gittin, Siman 26, s.v. שמעתי) relates that a couple who had a boy disagreed on whether to name the baby Meir (after his father) or Uri (after his wife’s father). They compromised and called the baby שניאור as this is a contraction of שני אור, two lights—מאיר and אורי, as both are rooted in אור.

[5] At times one may enter Shul and see someone in his seat which may cause feelings of hostility. One shouldn’t be disturbed by this and as the saying goes, “It is better to sit in front and think why am I not in the back than to sit in the back and think why am I not in the front.” In this way we can grasp המכיר את מקומו, knowing one’s place, as one shouldn’t be so particular with where he sits (Avos 6:6).

[6] The saying goes, “We agree to disagree.”

[7] The Gemara (Yevamos 14b) says that despite disagreements, Beis Shamai didn’t refrain from marrying the women of Beis Hillel nor Beis Hillel of Beis Shamai.

[8] Yabia Omer, Volume 10, Even Ha’ezer 14.

[9] In the Telz Yeshiva in Telz, Lithuania, they—including R’ Gifter—learned Tanya.

[10] R’ Gifter did consider, though, that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was from the Gedolai Hador.

[11] Heard from R’ Gifter’s son, R’ Zalman.

[12] R’ Yitzchak Friedman (1850–1917), also known as the Pachad Yitzchak, was the eldest son of R’ Avraham Yaakov Friedman (1820–1883), the first Sadigura Rebbe. Upon the death of his father in 1883, R’ Yitzchak and his younger brother R’ Yisrael (1852–1907) assumed joint leadership of their father’s Chassidim. This was rare—that following their father’s passing they led the dynasty together. Included in this was leading the tisch together. Although they were content with this arrangement, many of the Sadigura Chassidim preferred to have one Rebbe, and in 1887, the brothers agreed to draw lots to determine who would stay in Sadigura and who would move out. The lots fell to R’ Yisrael to remain as the second Sadigura Rebbe, while R’ Yitzchak moved to the neighboring town of Boyan and established his court there, becoming the first Boyaner Rebbe. Under this arrangement, R’ Yitzchak assumed the mantle of Nasi of kollel Vohlyn in Eretz Yisrael, and with it the merit of lighting the fire in Meiron on Lag Baomer as well as the Tiferes Yisrael shul in the Old City of Yerushalayim.

[13] The Mishna (Avos 5:20) says a machlokes that is לשם שמים was the dispute between Hillel and Shamai… The מאור ושמש (Korach, s.v. והנה ארחיב) points out that the Mishna says Shamai and Hillel, not Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel, because Shamai and Hillel argued לשם שמים whereas their students had their biases as each one said their Rebbe is greater.

[14] The Zohar (Naso) tells us that a son-in-law, with his learning Torah and good deeds, causes a spiritual elevation to his father-in-law in the עולם העליון, higher world.

[15] The Chesed L’Avraham (מעין שני, end of נהר נ”ב) says that we give a name to a baby boy only after the mila because all the while he still has the ערלה and impurity on him, the sod ha’neshama cannot take effect on him (cited by the B’tzeil Hachachma 6:10).

[16] Tehillim 34:15.

Author of three books including the recently released Extraordinary Insights

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