Logo for Chadash NewspaperLast week we saw what makes something a machlokes as opposed to a simple argument. We explained that the point of issur is reached when the parties feel and act with separateness — that there are “two teams” — “us” and “them.” At this time, the beginning of the Three Weeks, this topic is particularly relevant, as we examine whether having different groups with different approaches and different perspectives constitutes machlokes. If being involved in a machlokes is forbidden, even without the almost-inevitably accompanying sinas chinom, loshon hora, rechilus, sheker, hotza’as shem ra, malbin pnei chaveiro b’rabim, ona’as devarim, and at times even haka’ah (hitting a fellow-Jew) and/or kelala (cursing), it certainly behooves us to know when a situation is a machlokes, and when it is diversity of opinion.

One summer many years ago, a young girl got lost in a wooded area during a hike. The entire frum community mobilized to search for her — hundreds of volunteers, buses from all over unloading all kinds of Jews, Chassidim, Misnagdim, Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Satmar, Lubavitch — everybody joined together in what we would indeed refer to as “a show of unity,” and cooperated in a search involving hundreds of square miles through unmapped, uncharted forest. People were glued to the radio; it was THE topic of conversation on everyone’s lips; massive Tehillim rallies were held; the greeting of the day was, “Nu,what’s happening with ____?” (The girl was boruch Hashem located, unharmed) It was a remarkable moment in our divided, splintered, community. (I understand that the same phenomenon occurred in Israel when the soldier Nachshon Wachsman was kidnapped by terrorists. To quote Nachshon’s mother, Esther, “At the Western Wall 100,000 people arrived, with almost no notice — Chassidim in black frock coats and long side curls swayed and prayed and cried, side by side with young boys in torn jeans and ponytails and earrings. There was total unity and solidarity of purpose among us — religious and secular, left wing and right wing, Sephardi and Ashkenazi, old and young, rich and poor — an occurrence unprecedented in our sadly fragmented society.”)

When, why, how, is that achieved?

If we step back and examine these cases, we instinctively understand the anomaly, and we don’t even understand why there’s a question! If you and I join together to look for a lost girl, or pray for a kidnapped soldier, any differences we may have in our opinions, shitos, ideas of avodas Hashem, are simply not relevant. And we would view with suspicion and puzzlement, and question the sanity of someone who would say, “Now wait just a second! There is NO WAY I am going to look for a lost girl with a Sephardi (or Ashkenazi) at my side! I just cannot bring myself to daven for a soldier together with a fellow sporting a black velvet yarmulka (or a kippah serugah).” We all understand the naturalness of unity at such moments, and we all would be shocked at any signs of division and/or antagonism. We all “get it” — instinctively.

Now, rabbosai and ladies, can we explain it? Can we intellectually define and analyze and show the roots and basis of this reality, and thus learn how to avoid machlokes, without just mouthing slogans and clichés? And be zocheh to avoid it, and achieve true shalom and unity?

The Medrash and Zohar talk about the “creation” of machlokes! “Why are the words ‘And Hashem saw that it was good’ not used on the second day of creation? Rav Yochanan… because gehinnom was created on that day… Rabbi Chaninah… because machlokes was created on that day… as Hashem created the ‘raki’a’ (the sky, usually translated as firmament) to separate and divide between the waters above and the waters below… Rav Tuvyumi elaborates: if this separateness and division, which was for the benefit of the world, for its improvement, is still the cause of Hashem refusing, so to speak, to associate the word ‘tov’ with it, certainly a ‘regular’ machlokes, which is destructive, certainly is an undesirable, untenable, situation.”

The Zohar makes clear that these two opinions are linked — that the creation of machlokes and the creation of gehinnom are two sides of the same coin. How, and in what way, are machlokes and gehinnom linked? And the Medrash itself is difficult to understand — was it really machlokes when Hakadosh Baruch Hu separated the upper waters from the lower ones? I mean, it sounds cute, great sound bite, but — machlokes? Really? As the Medrash itself says: Hakadosh Baruch Hu split them into two entities in order for the world to function properly! So why shouldn’t it say that Hashem saw that “it was good”?

The commentators explain that the upper waters represent the ruchnius roots of the beriah — everything in the gashmius world has a spiritual source, a spiritual fount which nourishes and sustains the physical item in this world, and which is its metaphysical lifeline to the Ribbono Shel Olam. Before the second day, there was no hafrada, no separation between the physical and its spiritual parent and origin. And therefore, just as the spiritual realms all proclaimed the Glory of Hashem and did, and do, nothing else — for in fact, it was only for that very purpose for which it was created — so, too, the physical “flowed” naturally from its progenitor, and had no other purpose or goal or reason-for-being other than to do the ratzon Hashem, for it was inextricably tied to its spiritual roots, which existed in a world where the only existence was Hashem and His will. It had no ego, no identity, no selfhood — only a tool of Hashem.

Ah, but then came day two.

To be continued…

As a result of, and as a follow-up to, the “Just What Are Mehadrin Standards” series, the Editor of Jerusalem Kosher News will iy”H be presenting an approximately 90-minute lecture/slideshow explaining and educating the public what to look out for when food shopping, and when eating out. The lecture will take place on Sunday July 4th,for women at 10:30 a.m.,and for men and women (and mechitzah) at 8:45 p.m. at Beis Tefillah Yonah Avraham, corner Refa’im and Luz. There will be questions and answers. Hoping to see you — it will be invaluable!

Rav Malinowitz is the Rav of Beis Tefillah Yonah Avraham, located in Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph, at the corner of Nachal Refaim and Nachal Luz. Many of Rav Malinowitz's shiurim can be heard at www.btya.org.