32 - Disputes, Conflicts and Arguments part 2

Even a highly esteemed person should forgo his honor if this will help defuse a machlokes, as Moshe Rabbenu did...

We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chusim for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.


Last week’s stretch of the week was:  Stop yourself from talking about a conflict in front of children.

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.

Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #32


PART 2 – Peace at Any Price


Even a highly esteemed person should forgo his honor if this will help defuse a machlokes, as Moshe Rabbenu did, when he went personally to Korach to give him the opportunity to back down and avoid the tragic conclusion of the machlokes he had begun.  

The gemara in Gittin enumerates eighteen takanos instituted by the chachamim-- “mipnei tikkun ha’olam”, to ensure social order.  Many of them are intended specifically to promote peace, with Jews and non-Jews alike.  Among these are order of precedence in the allotment of being called to the Torah, distribution of water from a limited supply, and other edicts.

Another halacha that shows us the significance of keeping peace is the Rambam’s ruling that when a person’s financial resources are limited, buying Shabbos candles takes precedence over buying Chanukah candles or wine for Kiddush.  Light in the house promotes shalom bayis, peace in the home, and shalom is paramount.  We know how precious shalom bayis is in HaShem’s eyes; He allowed His Holy Name to be erased in the case of the sota, a woman suspected of disloyalty, for the sake of making peace between husband and wife.

Even when it means forfeiting a mitzva, more refined people withdraw and forgo the privilege in order to avoid machlokes.  For example, a man who has been given the honor of being the chazzan, leading his shul in davening, may give it over to another man who walks in off the street and continues to insist that he be the chazzan for that day.  This is true even in a case where the other fellow will probably not be as worthy a representative of the congregation.  Nevertheless, it is preferable to give in.  

Not only should a mitzva at times be forfeited in favor of peace, HaShem even allows us to bend the truth when necessary for the sake of shalom.  Chazal describe to us how Aharon HaKohen would alter the facts somewhat in order to make peace between two people who were at odds.  HaShem Himself changed Sarah Imaynu’s words from “My husband is old” to “I am old” in order to avoid any possibility of adversely affecting shalom bayis.   

(Excerpted from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rav Yitzchok Silver)

Story(based on a true story)

“I’m sorry, Ima.  It’s their year,” I said to my mother, the phone squashed between my ear and shoulder and my neck aching as I carried the baby in one arm and a laundry basket in the other.  “We were by you for Pesach last year and by Moshe’s parents the year before.  We always alternate.”

“But they come to you so often,” she answered.  “They see that precious baby of yours all the time, and we’ve only spent time with her once since she was born, and Nachum seems to forget us between visits.  The Farbsteins were by you only last week!  I can’t believe they wouldn’t give us this chag with you.  There are exceptions to turns, you know.”

Not knowing what to say, I just listened as I staggered into the laundry room and almost put down the baby instead of the basket.  As I loaded the machine and turned it on, my precious baby began to scream, and I quickly begged off the phone call and told my mom I’d call her back later.

Finally relaxed and nursing Aviva an hour later, I reviewed it all in my head.  We’d been alternating entire Pesach stays since we got married.  My parents and my in-laws each lived a drivable distance from us, but in opposite directions.  Going from one to the other would take almost eight hours, and we weren’t prepared to do that with a three year old and a five month old baby.  Plus, whichever side we didn’t go to for seder was going to be upset.  

Nobody had given us any trouble about our system until my mom called two weeks ago with the invite.  I think it had something to do with my older sister and her family cancelling on her because of a difficult pregnancy.  They were going to her in-laws, who lived in their neighborhood and closer to her doctor.  No reason I had could compete with that; she had never spent a Pesach without grandchildren since her first one was born.

But my in-laws were makpid.  Yes, they came in more often.  They took off work and made it happen even if it was hard because it was a priority.  Just because their mechutanim didn’t do the same, they should give up their time with us and their only grandchildren?  Moshe had tentatively broached the idea of a change last week on the phone and had received a full speech on not punishing those who put in effort.  

So we had a problem.  Neither side was giving in.  Whichever side we didn’t go to would be angry, both with us and with the other side, for the next two months until Pesach and for who knows how long afterward.  Not a good situation.  

The answer came to me as I scrubbed a pot after dinner.  I didn’t love it, but it did seem to be the answer.  For the next couple hours I let it percolate in my head, and when I had generated some genuine positivity, I sat down across from Moshe at the kitchen table and set myself.

“I think we should make Pesach this year.” 

He stopped mid-sip of his water.  “Seriously?” he asked.

“I know,” I said.  “I know we have free and clear invites out and we don’t have to clean.  But we have two invites, and if we make Pesach, we can have them both here.  We can put my parents in the guest room and your parents in the basement den and you brothers on the living room couch and floor.”

He sat there, water still held above the table, almost not moving.  “Really?” he asked.  Did he not believe I could make Pesach?  Did he not want to?

“I’d need your help cleaning, but Aviva can be in her port-a-crib and Nachum’s at playgroup and if I start now, I think I can do it.  And, I think I may even want to do it.  Can you imagine our own Pesach--with the kids in their own beds and with their own stuff and without packing and driving?  I can so do this!”

Moshe finally set his water down and smiled.  “I had this idea the day after I spoke to my parents,” he said.  “I mentioned it to my older brother who called after my mother called him, and he told me to sit down and be quiet.  He said, ‘You can’t harm your shalom bayis to solve this problem.  You do not ask your wife with a toddler and a baby and a part time job to make Pesach when she doesn’t have to.’  But now this is your idea, right?”

“Please tell your brother he is awesome,” I replied.  “And yes.  It’s my idea--and yours, which means we can do it and enjoy it, and, avoid a family fight.” 

Two months later when we all sat around our small dining room table listening to Nachum say his first ma nishtana, I knew it was worth it regardless of the all the craziness it took to get there.  Not only was the physical work less draining than dealing with fighting or resentful parents but both sides knew we had done this to make them both happy.  A Pesach with shalom is the best freedom there is.

Discussion Question Options:

How does giving in build a person up?

What types of mitzvos can we forgo for peace?

How can we know when to back off from a conflict to avoid machlokes and when we need to press on and get what we need?

Stretch of the Week:

Forgo something you feel is due to you when asking for or receiving it would cause a conflict. 


Stretch Of The Week