Family Feud

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By Rabbi Hershel Becker

Is someone who is involved in machlokes with another family member allowed to rally other family members to join in the fray? Does it make a difference if the mitzvah of Kibud Av Va’em is involved and it is a parent who is making the demand? May parents tell their children that they want them to distance themselves from mishpachah? Does it make a difference if the person targeted to be subject of scorn is a relative? What is the halachah?

Although relevant always, Ahavah is a focus particularly at this time of year as we begin the Bein Hametzarim. This is due to the awareness that, “Any generation that did not experience the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash is considered as if it destroyed it (Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1; Yalkut Shimoni Tehilim 886), and that the second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of Sinas Chinam (Yoma 9b). Although it makes for good themes and slogans, it is hard to imagine accomplishing global ahavah while so many family units are torn apart by machlokes. Years ago, in a conversation I had with HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlit”a, he bemoaned how prevalent a problem this was in Klal Yisrael.

The Shulchan Aruch states; “If a father commands his son not to talk with a certain person and not to forgive him until a particular date, but the son wants to have a connection immediately, with the only reservation being his father’s command, he should not be concerned with the command” (Yorah Deah 240:16).

The Taz and Shach explain why he should not comply with the command for allegiance: One may not comply to wishes of others, even parents, when the demand is in violation of halachah (Yoreh Deah 240:15). It is forbidden to have sinah to anyone in Klal Yisrael!

Yes, there are evil people. There are exceptions. People must seek halachic counsel if they are dealing with the exception. The rule is straightforward in Shulchan Aruch. Because a family member has machlokes it does not mean that the circle should expand. To the contrary; every effort should be exerted to bring Shalom.

In preparation for battle with the Canaanim, Bnei Yisrael were counted (Pinchas 26). Although they had already been counted, here there was to be a reckoning by family (Daas Z’keinim Pinchas 26:1). In the midst of the reckoning came some detail: “The children of Eliav were Nemuel, Dasan and Aviram; this was Dasan and Aviram who incited the people to rebel against Moshe in the assemblage of Korach who turned on Hashem. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and Korach when the assemblage died as the fire consumed the two hundred and fifty men. And the children of Korach didn’t die” (Pinchas 26:9-11).

This account was expressed in order to shift some of the blame for Korach’s rebellion to Dasan and Aviram. They were rabble-rousers who managed more than once to be a thorn in the side of Moshe and Aharon. When Moshe sought to squelch the rebellion of Korach, he went to Dasan and Aviram to try to bring peaceful resolve. They refused to even give him an audience. Why did Moshe go to Dasan and Aviram? Because they were the source of evil. If not for them, he could have influenced everyone to do teshuvah from the rebellion (Ohr HaChaim Pinchas 26:9).

As the Torah eases the blame on Korach, it states: “And the children of Korach did not die” (Pinchas 26:11). At the last minute, the children of Korach managed to do teshuvah. This was to the credit of Korach, as well as to his sons.

Although Dasan and Aviram did not budge from their positions when Moshe came to entreat them, his visit changed the course for the three sons of Korach. When Moshe was walking towards Dasan and Aviram, the sons of Korach saw him pass by and they initially buried their faces. They were in a quandary. If they would stand before Moshe, it would be disrespectful to their father whom they are obligated to respect. On the other hand, they were taught that there is an obligation to revere Torah scholars; surely this applied to Moshe, the Torah giant. They did rise before him and at that moment felt remorse and penitence for any involvement they had before.

In contrast to the evil Dasan and Aviram, Korach and his children were righteous. This episode was the one instance that Korach engaged in machlokes. Although at first his sons became ensnared they were able to pull out due to the education and training they had received from their father (Oznayim LaTorah).

There are those who take a position that, “If I’m angry with someone, the whole family should stand by my side, joining in sentiment and machlokes.” Even if it is totally irrelevant to the others, you hear the battle cry: “We’re all in it together, and we expect your allegiance!” The sons of Korach struggled. On one hand they felt that the family that fights with others together stays together. Then they faced the truth. As it turned out, the prophet Shmuel was among their descendants, only possible since they were not swallowed up with the rebels. They and all Klal Yisrael benefited for eternity, because they made a decision – not to be ensnared in discord.

When machlokes brews, things get heated and emotions get out of control. We are fortunate to have a Shulchan Aruch as our guide. If someone demands loyalty and insist that others join in machlokes to support the cause, we must indeed remain loyal – to the Shulchan Aruch, remaining caring, understanding, and strong at the same time.

“Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel stated: “Whoever brings peace in his household is considered as if he brought peace in Yisrael on each and every individual” (Avos D’Rebbe Noson 28:3). What is the connection between a single household and all Yisrael? Every member of the household will learn that Shalom is a priority. They, in turn, will apply the principles in their families and circles. Thus, the circle will expand to all Klal Yisrael, with the starting point having been a single home (Binyan Yehoshua).

Let’s take the lessons of Ahavas Yisrael from theory into practice. Bringing peace to one family strengthens us all!




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