The following article, titled “The Lubavitcher Rebbe And His Opponents,” was written by YY Jacobson and appears in the Five Towns Jewish Times. We hereby protest the author’s insinuation that those gedolim who disgreed with the Lubavitcher Rebbe on certain matters did so for reasons other than kevod Shomayim. The danger and the disrespect inherent in such a statement is obvious. Renowned gedolei olam, including Rav Elazar Shach, who had disagreements with the Lubavitcher Rebbe did so purely for the honor of Hashem. These gedolim viewed it as a machlokes l’sheim Shomayim. It is doubtful that YY Jacobson was referring to fringe individuals or lunatic rabble rousers who had disagreements with the Rebbe. These individuals wouldn’t seem to warrant the writing of such an article. His comments, therefore, would seem to be directed at holy Torah leaders who espoused certain views that were contrary to those of the Rebbe and his approach. But make no mistake about it. They did what they did and said what they said because of their unbridled love of Hashem, their love for the Torah, and their love for fellow Yidden.
YY Jacobson states:
Sadly, some individuals in the Jewish world never missed an opportunity to criticize the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to denigrate him and scoff at him. Some individuals even made it an important mission to sow hatred against him and his movement among their students. Motivated by ideology, ignorance, envy, or arrogance, these people made his life difficult. And yet, the Lubavitcher Rebbe never ceased to love them and seek ways to terminate the animosity and separation.
Once again, such a statement may lead an unaware reader to believe that gedolei Torah who disagreed with the Rebbe were driven by ulterior motives or agendas. This is the farthest thing from the truth and we stand up for the kavod of these Torah leaders.
If YY Jacobson had desired to speak of the Rebbe’s virtues, he could have expounded on the love the Rebbe had for all Yidden and the impact the Rebbe had on tens of thousands. Instead, he states that “Some individuals even made it an important mission to sow hatred against him and his movement among their students.”
This post here is not about the actual diasagreements. Each person must follow the directives and guidance of his rov or rebbe. Nevertheless, this post protests the aforementioned statement and the fact that it was made in an article discussing the machlokes of Korach Va’adaso, in essense equating those gedolim who disagreed with the Lubavitcher Rebbe to Korach, Dasan, Aviram and their ilk.
The article is in poor taste. The analogy is a denigration to G-d-fearing Torah leaders. Enough said.
The full text of YY Jacobson’s article is as follows:
The narrative is dramatic, tragic, and unmistakably Jewish. Four men-Korach, Dasan, Aviram, and On-are the leaders of a mass mutiny against Moshe, the leader of the Jewish people, and his brother Aharon, the High Priest. What else is new, right?
“They gathered together against Moshe and against Aharon,” the portion of Korach records (Bamidbar 16), “and said to them, ‘It is too much for you! The entire community is holy, and G-d dwells among them; why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of G-d?”‘
Moshe responds to Korach in brief and moving words. He attempts to persuade Korach, who happens to be his first cousin, that Aharon was appointed to his position by the instructions of G-d. Nepotism was not a factor. “Then Moshe sent word to summon Dasan and Aviram,” the Torah records. “But they said, ‘We won’t come! Is it not enough that you brought us out of a land flowing with milk and honey, just to kill us in the desert?! What right do you have to set yourselves above us? Even if you would gouge out our eyes, we shall not come!'”
These are bald and vicious words. Clearly, Dasan and Aviram won’t surrender. They are determined, together with Korach, to overthrow Moshe and Aharon.
As usual in the wilderness, G-d intervenes. He decides to wipe out the rebels who are attempting to invalidate Moshe as the leader of the Jewish people and the communicator of G-d’s law. G-d instructs Moshe to announce to the entire community: “Withdraw from the pavilion of Korach, Dasan, and Aviram.” A tragic fate awaits them. But before Moshe moves to execute G-d’s instruction, the Torah inserts an unexpected scene in the narrative:
“Moshe stood up and went over to Dasan and Aviram.”
Why? Didn’t G-d instruct him to ensure that everybody withdraw from their dwellings? What exactly did Moshe do when he approached them? The Torah leaves the answer to our imagination, but the message is clear. Moshe was attempting, one last time, to persuade Dasan and Aviram to terminate their campaign against him. He made one final attempt to save their lives. It was to no avail. They would not budge.
The Talmud, commenting on this scene, states: “From here we learn that one should never keep up a quarrel” (Sanhedrin 110a).
Yet here is the simple question: Must we derive this noble injunction from this incident? Hasn’t the Torah already stated explicitly, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart… You shall love your fellow as yourself” (Vayikra 19:17-18)? Does this straightforward commandment not teach us already that we ought never to maintain a quarrel or perpetuate a dispute, but must always attempt to eradicate the animosity and create love? Why would the Talmudic rabbis feel compelled to derive this injunction from the particular verse, “Moshe stood up and went over to Dasan and Aviram”?
A Profile Of Quarrelers
To understand this, we must examine the profiles of these two quarrelers, Dasan and Aviram. The Torah reports four incidents about these two men, sufficient material to capture the nature of their relationship to Moshe. Incident No. 1, in the beginning of Sh’mos (2:11-14), takes us back some 70 years, to Moshe’s youth:
“Now it came to pass in those days that Moshe grew up and went out to his brothers and looked at their burdens. He saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man of his brothers. He turned this way and that way, and he saw that there was no person present; so he struck the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
“He went out on the second day, and behold, two Hebrew men were quarreling, and he said to the wicked one, ‘Why are you going to strike your friend?’ And the man retorted, ‘Who made you a man, a prince and a judge over us? Do you plan to slay me as you have slain the Egyptian?’ Moshe became frightened and said, ‘Indeed, the matter has become known!'”
Who were the two Hebrews quarreling with each other? The Talmud and the Midrash (Targum Yonasan and Rashi to Sh’mos, ibid.; Nedarim 64b) deduce from the wording that they were none other than Dasan and Aviram.
Incident No. 2 occurs shortly after the Exodus, when the heavenly manna begins falling daily in the desert to nourish the wandering Jews (Sh’mos 16:19-20): “Moshe said to them, ‘Let no one leave over any of it until morning.’ But some men did not obey Moshe and left over some of it until morning, and it bred worms and became putrid. Moshe became angry with them.” Who were these men that betrayed Moshe’s instruction? The Midrash (Rashi; Midrash Rabbah Sh’mos 1:29, 25:10) deduces from the wording, yet again, that it was Dasan and Aviram.
Incident No. 3 occurs one year later, when the spies returned from the Holy Land and dissuaded their brethren from the motivation and willingness to conquer and settle the Land of Israel (Bamidbar 14:1-4): “The people wept that night. All the children of Israel murmured against Moshe and Aharon, and the entire community said to them: ‘If only we had died in the land of Egypt… Why is G-d bringing us to this Land to die by the sword?’ And one man said to his brother, ‘Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt!'”
Who exactly was this man who spoke these words to his brother? Here again, tradition teaches that it was a conversation between Dasan and Aviram (Rabbeinu Bechayei to Sh’mos 2:13).
Finally, the fourth incident, recorded above, tells the story of how Dasan and Aviram not only rejected Moshe’s plea that they come to see him, but even went so far as to call him a killer.
These four incidents paint a fairly accurate picture of Dasan and Aviram’s characters. They were not idealistic adversaries, disputing Moshe for ideological reasons; the fact is that they quarreled between themselves too, independent of Moshe. Nor were they driven by envy, seeking the power and prestige possessed by Moshe; the fact is that they fought Moshe long before he became a leader.
Dasan and Aviram, it appears, were rabble-rousers who would not miss an opportunity to fight Moshe, even if they stood to gain nothing. They were forever determined to undermine Moshe and his authority. They even had the audacity of suggesting that Moshe was a killer and that he would poke their eyes out, as though he were a sadist. Dasan and Aviram, it seems, despised Moshe because he was their opposite: he stood for everything they loathed.
It is thus astonishing that after all of these incidents, after an animosity that persisted for close to 70 years, and even after G-d instructed Moshe to ensure that everybody depart from their midst, that “Moshe stood up and went over to Dasan and Aviram” to try and assuage their ire against him. This makes little sense. One could imagine some Jews suggesting to Moshe that his behavior was futile and humiliating. “You know, Moshe, that these guys loathe you. For seven decades they haven’t missed an opportunity to campaign against you. Even as you invited them to discuss peace, they responded with nasty words. Moshe! For the sake of your dignity and G-d’s dignity, it is below you to approach them.”
“Do not be kinder and wiser than G-d,” they must have argued. “If G-d commanded you to stay away from them, just stay away.” (Moshe himself would ultimately call them “wicked,” Bamidbar 16:26.)
Yet here we are allowed a glimpse into what made Moshe the human being he was. Here we encounter the gigantic heart of Moshe. His dedication, loyalty, and love for every single member of his people knew no bounds. Even as his fiercest lifelong enemies were engaged in an intense battle against him, he would not give up on the chance of seeking peace with them and saving their lives.
Ultimately, it is this verse-“Moshe stood up and went over to Dasan and Aviram”-that demonstrates to us why the mutiny against Moshe was so profoundly wrong. It was Moshe’s uncompromising identification with his people, no matter to what depths they might have fallen, that made him qualified to have all the power he had. Only a human being so selfless and humble can be trusted with so much power. Moshe’s extraordinary dedication to his people turned him into the authentic Jewish leader.
Now we can understand the Talmudic comment that “from here we learn that one should never keep up a quarrel.” The biblical instruction “You shall not hate your brother in your heart… You shall love your fellow as yourself” merely suggests that one should not foster animosity in one’s heart; one must expose and deal with his or her grudges, and ultimately learn to love his fellow human being, since on a deeper soul level, we are children of one G-d (see Tanya, chapter 32).
But how about when you feel that somebody really has issues with you and is addicted to alienating himself from you? What about when you can justly assume that no matter what you will do, this person will never change? Why not just write him off and accept the quarrel as an immutable fact of life? Why not make peace with the state of war?
This is what Moshe taught us at the moment that he “stood up and went over to Dasan and Aviram.” Never keep up a quarrel. Despite the fact that he could have rightly assumed that his adversaries would not change their position, he did not allow any assumptions based on past experiences to stop him from his peace efforts. Moshe knew that fighting and animosity among Jews was a malignant disease, and he would not give up the slightest opportunity to stop it!
In the Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi states (chapter 42): “Each and every soul of the House of Israel contains within it something of the quality of our teacher Moshe.” This means that we, too, are empowered to emulate Moshe’s example, at least in some small fashion. To become comfortable with disunity and fragmentation is a tragedy. We must never cease to confront our arrogance and to strive for peace even with people we can easily write off.
If They Only Knew…
This Thursday, June 25, the third of Tamuz, marks the 15th anniversary of the passing of one of the great leaders of our generation, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn.
One of the most outstanding features of the Rebbe was the way he dealt with those who opposed him. Sadly, some individuals in the Jewish world never missed an opportunity to criticize the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to denigrate him and scoff at him. Some individuals even made it an important mission to sow hatred against him and his movement among their students. Motivated by ideology, ignorance, envy, or arrogance, these people made his life difficult. And yet, the Lubavitcher Rebbe never ceased to love them and seek ways to terminate the animosity and separation. The Rebbe never made peace with the fact that “some Jews just won’t get along with each other.” He loathed disunity among Jews and sought every opportunity to foster mutual respect and affection.
I always remember thinking that if the Rebbe’s opponents would only know how much he cared for their well-being, they could never harbor negative sentiments toward him.
Who Has Time?
A rabbi once verbally attacked the Lubavitcher Rebbe. When the rabbi realized he was mistaken, he wrote an apology note to the Rebbe and expressed his hope that the Rebbe did not bear a grudge against him. The Rebbe responded: “Believe me when I tell you that I do not have the time to bear grudges against people.”
The Rebbe attempted to inculcate this perspective in the hearts of his disciples, as well. Where do you find the time to bear grudges against people? Where do you obtain the time and the energy to hate? This time must be used to change the world for the better!
If only we, the students of the Rebbe, could emulate his example.
This essay is based on an address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbos Parashas Korach 5740, June 14, 1980 (published in Likkutei Sichos, vol. 28, pp. 98-103). Thanks to Shmuel Levin for his editorial assistance.
Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson, one of the most sought-after Jewish speakers in the world today, has lectured to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences on six continents and in thirty states. He is editor of Algemeiner.com and author of the acclaimed tape series “A Tale of Two Souls” and “Captain, My Captain.” Rabbi Jacobson teaches Kabbalah, Chassidic spirituality, and Talmud at the Rabbinical College Chovevay Torah in Brooklyn, New York.