Dealing with Adversity – Avoiding Machlokes

In Parashas Ki Sisa, when Moshe Rabbeinu descended from Har Sinai and saw the Bnei Yisrael rejoicing with the Golden Calf, he said, “Mi laHashem eilai — Whoever is for Hashem, join me; vayei’asfu alav kol bnei Levi — and all of the Leviim gathered around him. (Shemos 32:26). 

The Chasam Sofer (Toras Moshe, 86b) finds it significant that the Torah tells us “all of the Leviim”came. From the word “kol” he derives that evenKorach and his followers, who dissented with Moshe and later rebelled against him, allied withhim on this occasion. The honor of Hashem was at stake and they wished to align themselves with 

this sacred cause. 

In our lives, we may encounter people or groups with whom we do not completely concur. However, we see from here that if the overall 

purpose is to be marbeh kvod Shamayim — to increase Hashem’s honor, or to accomplish a worthy mitzvah purpose, it might be appropriate to disregard certain technical aspects of their modus operandi and focus on the overriding worthy objective that is sought. (Certainly, questions in this regard should be addressed to a competent Torah authority.) 

Daas Zekeinim notes another instructive dimension of the loyalty of the Leviim to Moshe: They remained faithful to Moshe due to their 

common descent, and their close relationship with him. Harav Henoch Leibowitz, zt”l, understands from the Daas Zekeinim that if other members of Bnei Yisrael had reached this level of devotion to Moshe, the episode of the Golden Calf possibly would not have happened. He 

explains that the greater the attachment one has to his Rebbi, who embodies the Torah, the greater his attachment to the Torah given over to him by the Rebbi, and the greater his allegiance to the 

Torah. This attitude will help to avoid machlokes. 

An example of this phenomenon is Harav Yechezkel Levenstein, zt”l, who served as Mashgiach of Mir and Ponevez yeshivos (whose 

50th yahrtzeit is today, 18 Adar). He led the Mir when the yeshivah was compelled by wartime conditions to leave Poland, going to Japan, 

and ultimately arriving in Shanghai. There, the talmidim confronted extreme heat, lack of hygienic conditions and other challenges; and 

were in agony over the loss of loved ones back in Europe. The Mashgiach, a towering mussar personality, gave them powerful chizuk to help themcope with the harrowing situation. Moreover, 

he insisted that the yeshivah’s staying together would serve as a shemirah for their welfare. Nevertheless, a group of talmidim decided they had to leave Shanghai at all costs and even arranged visas. When their arrival was imminent the Mashgiach appeared and warned them not toseparate from the yeshivah. Their strong yearning 

to leave Shanghai notwithstanding, they would not disobey their revered mentor and gave up their plans. 

In Pirkei Avos (5:17), we learn that a machlokes that is l’shem Shamayim — for the sake of Heaven, will be sofo l’hiskayem — have a constructive outcome. The Mishnah offers the machlokes of Hillel 

and Shammai as one that is l’shem Shamayim; one that is not is exemplified by the machlokes of Korach and his followers. They argued that the entire nation is holy, all heard Hashem give the Torah. Yet, Chazal tell us that Korach’s real motive was his honor — he maintained he was next in line to be the leader of the family of Kehos 

and was miffed when his cousin Elizaphan received this position. 

Disputes over trivialities will be avoided by an elevated person; when there is a tiny kernel of truth a lesser individual may be tempted to magnify it and create an overall facade of truth over which to be combative to fulfill his agenda. 

In Tehillim (38:14) we read “Vaani ch’cheireish lo eshma, uch’ileim lo yiftach piv — but I am like a deaf person, I don’t hear; like a mute who will not open his mouth.” To someone who sought guidance in dealing with a machlokes, Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, quoted this passuk, pointing out that the first part is worded in the first person 

(lo eshma) and the second part is in the third person (lo yiftach piv). He explained that, with this incongruity, Dovid Hamelech offers advice 

on how to address a dispute. When one decides to ignore offensive words, the provocateur, seeinghis opponent is silent, likewise becomes quiet, seeing there is no one with whom to feud. 

A resident of Bnei Brak approached Harav 

Elazar Menachem Mann Shach, zt”l, about discord brewing in his building. This individual and his neighbors had diametrically opposite 

opinions on a certain issue. How could he get them to see that his opinion was the correct one? To his surprise, Rav Shach told him to give in to them. The Rosh Yeshivah elaborated, “If you are mevater, you will stand to benefit.” Although it was very difficult for him, the man did so. Amazingly, over time, several serious personal issues confronting him — unrelated to the residential one — were miraculously resolved. 

Such is the power of avoiding machlokes. 

Rabbi Yosef Gesser is a longtime writer for Hamodia Newspaper and an inspirational speaker on various topics, including dealing with adversity. He can be reached at 

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!