Many of you will remember the great Yanny/Laurel debate that took place last May. To those of you that don’t recall, the debate was over a short audio clip that can either be heard as the word “Laurel” or “Yanny.” The recording took the internet by storm, with people swearing that their version was the correct one.
By playing with the pitch of the clip, audiologists discovered that that while the recorded word that was “Laurel,” what a person heard depended on what pitch his brain received it on. Amazingly, reminiscent of the Shomer V’Zocher spoken at Har Sinai, one utterance was able to have two completely different auditory receptions.
This week, we had our own version of the Laurel/Yanny debate. A story took place that many heard as tale of a Hanhala upholding the rules of a Yeshiva, while other people listened and heard the story of a Yeshiva overstepping their boundaries and being stubborn and unreasonable.
With people bashing both sides, and many using language that exposes deep anger and resentment to boot, is it possible that each side is valid and took the proper course of action?
The situation reminds me of a story told to me by a Rebbi many years ago:
The bochurim at a prestigious Yeshiva once got into a disagreement with their Hanahala and decided to all learn in the Ezras Nashim in protest. When the esteemed Rosh Yeshiva arrived at the Bais Medrash during first Seder, he was shocked to find the room completely empty. There was, however, one bochur who refused to join the protest and was learning on his own in a corner.
Realizing what must be going on, the Rosh Yeshiva approached the boy. One can imagine that the boy was expecting praise or a gesture of appreciation for remaining behind. Surprisingly, the Rosh Yeshiva looked at him sternly and instructed him to go upstairs to the Ezras Nashim. “When the entire Yeshiva is taking part in something, you shouldn’t single yourself out,” he chided the boy.
Chastised, the bochur scurried upstairs to join the rest of the Yeshiva. Five minutes later the Rosh Yeshiva entered the Ezras Nashim and proceeded to lambast the entire Yeshiva for making the protest.
The lesson I learned from the story is that there are times that two opposites can be true at the same time. While the Rosh Yeshiva was upset that his bochurim were not in the Bais Medrash, he felt it was also important for that one boy to know what the right course of action was for himself, even if it meant opposing the Rosh Yeshiva!
Depending on whose ‘pitch’ you listened to last week you’d be convinced that that version was correct and, in truth, either way you would be correct. The bochurim, who strongly felt the passing of the saintly Rebbe, felt the need to take part in the levayos hameis of an adom gadol. This imperative doesn’t absolve them from consequences, though their willingness to face discipline certainly makes their partaking in the levaya more admirable.
The Hanhala, for their part, rightfully felt their authority has been flouted so they had to take strong action against a breach of their rules. The bochurims’ good intentions do not mitigate the fact that they broke the Yeshiva’s rules.
In summary, it seems that both the Yeshiva and the bochurim did what was right for them; the only true travesty may have been the hostile reactions from the bystanders.