Korach 2005

by | May 20, 2007 | 0 comments

Historically it has been the division between Jews that has caused us to lose our land.

Jerusalem has turned orange. It?s almost impossible to walk or drive on the streets of Yerushalayim without seeing dozens of orange ribbons

tied to car mirrors, antennas, schoolbags, ponytails, and porches. They are worn by children who tie their hands together with them to block traffic entering the city. They are everywhere in Jerusalem.
Not so in Tel Aviv and Haifa, where blue is the ribbon du jour. Thousands of cars, homes and people are sporting the more patriotic looking blue ribbon.
The orange ribbon is the symbol of the anti-disengagement. It represents support for those Jews that have settled in Gaza and are now facing eviction so that the Palestinians can have their homes. The blue ribbon represents ?Shalom Achshav? or the ?Peace Now? (as opposed to ?Peace Later??) movement that feels that as painful as it may be, an amputation is in order to bring about peace with the Palestinians. They feel that by giving them land, security and even weapons, there will be peace in Israel.
Emotions are running high. Almost no one is passive on this issue. There are screaming matches in the streets all over the Land.
I was one of the few with no ribbon at all, until last week. Last Friday as I was driving through Jerusalem a woman at a stoplight from Peace Now offered me a blue ribbon. I don?t know why, but I reached out to accept the blue ribbon. A block later I was offered the more well known in Jerusalem orange ribbon representing the struggle of the settlers in Gaza. I accepted the orange ribbon. As I sat in my car contemplating the two ribbons on my lap, I instinctively tied them together in a bow and hung them on my rear view mirror.
Historically it has been the division between Jews that has caused us to lose our land.
As I shared my experience with a close friend of mine he commented that now my car has a double chance of getting vandalized. Interestingly, that has not been the reaction. This past week I traveled the length and breadth of this country. Wherever I went I received similar reactions. Usually a thumbs up sign. Always a startled smile. People have pulled their car next to mine at traffic lights and have engaged me in serious philosophical discussion. My impression; in their hearts everyone knows that we need to be at peace with ourselves before we can even think about peace with the outside.

An argument for the sake of Heaven will last forever. An argument for personal gain will eventually diminish. The arguments between Hillel and Shamai were arguments for the sake of Heaven. The argument of Korach and his people was an argument for personal gain. (Avos 5)

The Talmud (Eiruvin 13) asks: If Hillel and Shamai were both arguing for G-d?s sake why does the Halachah remain with Hillel?

The Talmud answers that there was a difference between the answers of the school of Hillel and the school of Shamai. When someone would ask a member of Beit Shamai for halachic advice, Beit Shamai would state his opinion only. However, when someone would ask a member of Beit Hillel for Halachic advice, he would offer both his opinion and the opinion of Beit Shamai. And not only that, he would state Shamai?s opinion first!

Although very impressive from a mentchlichkeit point of view the question seems unanswered. Maybe the students of Hillel were nicer, gentler and warmer than those of Shamai?s Yeshiva down the street but how does that prove that Hillel had the truth?

Here we are taught a monumental lesson. If two people are arguing and they both sound right, they both sound true, how are we to choose the correct opinion to follow? The answer is, we should listen carefully and choose the opinion that considers his opponent?s position first. The person with the truth is the person who realizes that perhaps his opponent is truer than he is. This can be explained mystically, psychologically, logically or ethically. Take your choice. The person who doesn?t need to be right is probably the person that is right.

Imagine a Knesset where everyone presented the opposing view first. Imagine a community where the leaders would spend time presenting and expounding on the opposing views. Imagine a marriage where those arguing would first examine their spouse?s side of the story.

Let?s take a look at ourselves. We often complain about the narrowness of those that have no place in their world for us or our style of Judaism. Yet perhaps at times we are guilty of the same racist sin. Perhaps we feel that our blend of Torah and Derech Eretz is so balanced, that our priorities are so much in order, and that our tolerance level is so high that we are intolerant of anyone who is less “tolerant” than us! The signposts of truth are as clear as the fins and scales on a fish or the OU on the horseradish.
If we can respect our opponents, then there is a chance that we are on the right side; if not, who knows?

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov Haber has been a leading force in Jewish community and Jewish education for over forty years. He lived and taught in the United States, Australia and in Israel. He is presently the Rav of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun, a vibrant community in the center of Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel, and serves as the Rabbinic guide to many of its wonderful organisations.


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