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Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

Have you ever seen those grainy black and white photos of school activities from the late fifties? They look a bit strange, everyone dressed in what seems to be formal ill-fitting clothes, hats a bit too large, and spectacles heavy with thick lenses. As one of those kids, I well remember the ambiance of those days, simpler yet resoundingly spiritual.

The Bobover Rebbe, Rav Shlomo Zt”l used to sit at a tish every Rosh Chodesh with all the boys in the Yeshiva aged twelve and higher. There may not be any pictures in existence of those gatherings, but for me they are vividly engraved in my memory. These were opportunities for the Rav to talk to us kids about what it meant to be a Chassid in post war America.

One shmooz stands out whenever we learn this week’s parsha of Korach. The subject of machlokes (communal strife) was of very great consequence to the Rov’s world view of Torah life. His horror of what Machlokes could bring was palpable, and you could sense the Rov’s fear of what such strife creates. At the merest whiff of communal intrigue the Rav would call in any participant and uncharacteristically leave them with no doubt that he would never allow his bochurim to be party to such actions, no matter who was right.

On this occasion the Rav was disquieted by something that had happened that week. There had been some murmuring amongst a small group of boys that were playing down other Chassidic Rebbe’s efforts. The Rav cleared his voice and started setting forth with his warm sweet elegant fashion:

“We all want our teachers to be considered great. They bring us the most cherished gift, the Torah, and we feel indebted to them with all our hearts. Sometimes we believe we make them greater by talking down other leaders. This is foolish! If you feel your Rebbe is great, how do you make him greater by making others small? You should say that other leaders are great and unique, and your Rebbe is for you even greater.”

The Rav smiled and continued,

“What good is it to say ‘Yenner is gornisht,’ that only makes your Rebbe a bit ‘besser vi gornisht’…

Better you should say, Yenner is grois ind dan Rebbe is noch gresser.’

(What good does it do to say that another leader is nothing that only makes your Rebbe a bit better than nothing?)

Machlokes is the feeding trough of the insecure and frightened. It gives a sense of strength when in fact it only underlines inadequacies. Creating strife is corrosive and scars all who are involved.

In Parshas Korach we find to what degree communal strife can reach. Open rebellion, the very earth opening up, total destruction. The Amshinover Rebbe, Rebbe Yitzchok Ztl brings a fascinating facet to this whole subject.

In Parshas Pinchas the daughters of Tzelafchad came to Moshe Rabbenu with a special request:

“Our father died in the desert. He was not among the members of Korach’s party who protested against Hashem, but he died because of his own sin without leaving any sons…..” (27:3)

With this preamble they asked to be given a portion of the land together with their father’s brothers.

The Rebbe remarks that these words point out how horrendous the sin of Machlokes is. These daughters stand up and beg to be given in portion in the land of Yisroel. They offer a mitigating petition, yes their father was a sinner (some explain that he was the Jew who had gathered wood on Shabbos) but he wasn’t a ba’al machlokes, he didn’t side with Korach and his evil party. This insight is amazing. Chilul Shabbos is no simple matter, in this particular situation it was punished with stoning. Yet, when weighed against machlokes, well, causing strife seems much worse.

We are living in a golus that swims with a comparatively easy life, with prosperity that has never been witnessed in our history. Our Mosdos are large to overflowing with wondrous children. One would think that the time of communal machlokes has passed, that there is enough for everyone.

Tragically, such is not the case. We see fighting amongst our ranks, with vicious slander, often driven by modern instantaneous communication, becoming the order of the day. It makes no sense, and yet machlokas thrives and rips communities and families apart. Why? Because we dont see it for what it is. We know what chillul Shabbos is, what unkosher ingredients look like. We have chumeras for everything, yet, the gapping hole that swallowed up Korach and co just doesn’t seem to be anything we find concerning.  Signs go up, words are spoken, the divide grows and people are pushed into taking sides.

Ask yourself, what are your children thinking whilst you and your friends talk ‘asser ledaber’ on eirlicha yieden? When schools are closed because others have decided they dont fit in? The very same schools that the parents went to and owe their entire Yiddishkeit to?

This is the red haze of machlokas doing it’s thing. We have great kiruv programs, Torah is celebrated as never before, yet, well the vibe of Korach still stalks our community. Let us get back to sanity, show our thanks to Hashem for all the good we have, and bestow ahavah to all segments of Klall Yesroil.