Making allowances for others
Making allowances for others
By Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita
Pirkei Avos: Perek 4 Mishna 7
We have all been there, yet, it seems some never learn. You get on a plane, make yourself comfortable and then as the flight takes off you are told that despite the best efforts of the cabin staff, your kosher food has not been put on board. Almost as reprehensible is when kosher food is available, but not with your type of hechsher. Unfortunately, these scenarios are commonplace and one should always be prepared. For me its tuna fish sandwiches; I won’t leave home for a long haul without one…or two for that matter. I have a theory that calories eaten thousands of feet above the ground don’t really count.
So I was recently amazed when a young heimishe fellow totally lost himself when he was offered a perfectly sealed dinner plate with the “wrong” hechsher. He really gave the cabin staff a hard time, saying that they had no right to even ask him to eat such food, and that he had paid for a higher standard of kashrus. Well, in truth the fellow didn’t know what he was talking about. Firstly, he was from another country so wasn’t aware which Beis Din was giving the hechsher in the first place. Secondly, what in the world did he want from the cabin crew? Did he really think that they had planned to poison his tender soul with besmirched food? I quietly had a word with the fellow and managed to persuade him to at least sit down. Although I have no idea what those who witnessed this event thought, I can tell you I was not amused.
The Mishna says, “One who withdraws from judgement removes himself from hatred…….But one who is too self-confident in issuing legal decisions is a fool, wicked, and arrogant of spirit.”
Today, there is so much available, yet there is so little sensitivity. We send our young to wonderful yeshivas, our young ladies study in the best of seminaries, but we sometimes find that a little Torah learning encourages them to see themselves as poskim in the making. We often seem so sure of ourselves and what we see as right that we lose the derech eretz that we should show to others. I witnessed how our Gedolim would do everything possible not to slight the degree of sanctity of other communities. Those who created Agudas Yisroel built it on such foundations. Over-zealousness in such matters only shows ignorance and causes Chilul Hashem.
In this regard, there are some communities where we find turmoil and machlokes. In such sad situations there is no shortage of individuals who are ready to decide on halachic matters, thus adding to the fires of anger.
Nearly a hundred years ago a dispute broke out in the town of Radin between two groups who were competing for the right to serve as the Jewish community’s Chevra Kadisha. As can often become the case, the dispute threatened to engulf the entire town. The Chofetz Chaim then lived in Radin and although never seeking a public position, he found it necessary to intervene. During the Shabbos morning service the Tzaddik rose to address the congregation.
“My brothers, were they to offer me thousands of rubles to speak in public I would refuse, for time is more precious to me than money. However, today I have no choice but to speak out. I have lived in this town for decades and remember many townspeople who used to sit in this shul but are no longer with us. Where are they? Their tombstones can be found in the local cemetery.
“When I came to this town some of you were not yet born, while others were small children. May we all be blessed with long life. Nevertheless, we cannot escape reality; eventually every man must come before the Heavenly throne and give an accounting of all his deeds and words during his days on this earth.
“Know my children that machlokes is an extremely grave matter! One can perform many mitzvos, only to throw away their merit through strife. I am sure that when you come to the Next World and feel the awesome experience of heavenly judgement, you will grasp at any straw to save yourselves. You might want to claim, in my town there was a Jew named Yisroel Meir whom we believed was a Talmud Chochom. He saw us quarrel but said nothing!”
“Therefore I ask of you that when your time comes, do not mention my name! I have my own burden of sins to worry about …..I can’t assume responsibility for yours!
With these words the holy Chofetz Chaim burst into tears and his entire body trembled. Everyone present was shaken to the core and the dispute was soon resolved.
Well, we don’t have the merit of having a Chofetz Chaim in our midst, but we have wondrous Torah leaders who are trying to show us the proper path. Our times are difficult, where material gain seems to have become the goal of many. Let’s step back a little and make allowances for others without judging them harshly or with arrogance.