One of the most fundamental missions of a Torah Jew can be found in the Rambam at the end of the Laws of Chanukah. There, he states, “Kol HaTorah kula nitna la-asos shalom b’olam, sheneemar ‘Dracheha darchei noam v’chol nesivoseha shalom’ – The entire Torah was given to promote peace in the world, as it is said, ‘Its ways are ways of sweetness and all Its paths are paths of peace.’” That the common denominator of all Torah commandments is to ensure, foster, and promote peace is a remarkable declaration, especially by the Rambam who was expert in all of the 613 mitzvos. How important this pursuit is in the eyes of Hashem can be seen from a Mishna in Pirkei Avos. There we are taught, “Kol she’ruach habrios nochah heimenu, ruach HaMakom nochah heimenu – The person who people are pleased with can be certain that Hashem is pleased with him too.”
One of the absolute obligations of wise parents is to inculcate into their children an abhorrence against all forms of fighting, feuding, and dissention. We are taught that when Dasan and Aviram and their fellow conspirators fought publicly with Moshe Rabbeinu, even their infants were punished with death. Rashi comments that although the human court punishes only from the age of 13 and the Heavenly court punishes from the age of 20, for the sin of machlokes, fighting, even babies die. The Ramban, in Parshas Nitzavim [Devarim 29:17] sites the posuk, “Pen yeish bachem shoresh poreh rosh v’laana – Lest there be amongst you a root growing gall and wormwood.” The Ramban explains that the word poreh means to propagate and it indicates that if there is a foul root in the parents it will flourish even worse in their children. Thus, if parents are quarrelsome and argumentative people, it is likely that their children will be even worse. And therefore, if the parents engage in fighting that is punishable by death, their children can be taken away young because of the philosophy, “Mutav yamos zakai, v’al yamos chayev – Better that they should die young and innocent than old and guilty.”
How scary it is that children who grow up watching their parents fight in shul often turn out disrespectful and quarrelsome themselves. On the flip side, parents who demonstrate to their children how to be pacifists and how to flee from the faintest sense of controversy raise peace loving children who are liked by all.
Let’s remember the wise recipe of Ben Zoma in Pirchei Avos, “Eizehu mechubad? Hamechabeid es habrios – Who is honored? He who honors all men.” Relationships are almost always reciprocal. If we demonstrate to our children that we can find what to respect in every person, they will reap the reward of being loved in turn by everyone around them. On the other hand, the sefer Mivchar HaPninim states, “Mi sheyizora hasinah yiktsor charota – One who sews hate will harvest regret.”
Let me tell you a story brought down in the preface of the sefer Minchas Adom. During World War One, the saintly Rebbe Chaikel, Zt”l, Zy”a, was sitting in front of his home when he overheard two women quarreling. One was elderly; the other was young and they were fighting heatedly over who had the 1st rights to rent a certain choice apartment. Finally, in anger, the younger woman shouted, “What do you need this apartment for anyway? In a short time you’ll take up new residence in the Beis HaChaim, the cemetery.” The older woman angrily answered back, only Hashem knows who is going to die first. Rebbe Chaikel relates that only an hour later a bomb hit the block immediately killing the younger woman. The older woman didn’t escape unscathed either. She was holding an infant grandchild and when the bomb dropped, it fell from her arms and also died. The Minchas Adom concludes how we see from here the grave dangers of machlokes and that no side escapes its dreadful repercussions.
In 1904, when the Chofetz Chaim was already very aged, a dispute arose in Radin, his home town. A group of people wanted to break away from the Chevra Kadisha, the burial society, and form their own splinter group. (Splinter groups of all kinds seem to be the rage these days.) The Chofetz Chaim got up to speak that Shabbos and said that the sin of dissention is very, very grave. All the mitzvos one has done may be lost if one foments or participates in dissention. He went on to say that he is sure that participants in this dissention will be called for an accounting by the Heavenly Tribunal. They in turn will try to defend themselves by saying that they had a Halachic authority, the Chofetz Chaim, who didn’t protest. Therefore, the Chofetz Chaim proclaimed, please do not use my name. My sins are heavy enough. I cannot assume responsibility for your actions. He then broke down and cried and that was the end of the plans to make a breakaway Chevra Kadisha. (cf. this story in Twerski on Chumash, Shaar Press.)
We can extrapolate from the words of the venerable Chofetz Chaim how one stands to lose all of life’s religious efforts by foolishly instigating of even getting sucked in to a machlokes. Forewarned is forearmed and therefore the horrific end of Korach, who was wise, great in Torah, and of impeccable pedigree, lost everything because he succumbed to the yeitzer Hara of dissention. I reiterate there is almost no greater gift that we can give our children than to foster in them a sense of dread and foreboding about getting involved in any type of fight, whether it’s shul politics, bungalow politics, office politics, family feuding, sibling bickering, marital fighting or anything else. In the merit of our pursuit of peace, the common thread of Kol HaTorah kula, may Hashem bless of with long life good health filled with sweetness and happiness until the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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