A Tisha B’Av Primer To Avoiding Machlokes

We left last week’s article wondering about the reaction of the people at the vasikin minyan in a certain town in the U.S.A. over the partial splitting apart of their twenty-year-old minyan; the grabbing of some of their daveners by the netz-hanir’eh junkie; and the sheer chutzpah on the breakaways’ part exhibited by coming back to daven there on Shabbos.

The reaction of the people at the minyan was–

Basically, none. Not a bad word; no one yelled; no two parties formed, the anti-letting-him-daven-there-on-Shabbos and the pro-letting-him-daven– there-on-Shabbos; people smiled, perhaps not broadly, perhaps sadly, but they basically went about their business as usual. No one turned red and vowed revenge.

What gives? Does davening netz cause lobotomies?

Rabbosai, and ladies: Think back how I described this minyan — no pretensions of being a “real” shul, no members, certainly not a kehillah –they daven vasikin and go home! Now think deeply what happened on day two of Creation, the day the waters were divided, the day that machlokes was created, and Gehinnom as well. What was created was the ability for things in this world to have a sense of self, for they were (experientially) unmoored from their spiritual roots where one’s entire being is the will of Hashem in a way that one has no true existence, only a subjective one (as explained in part three ). This gives rise to machlokes, as once you are untethered from being ratzon Hashem, and you are a seemingly independent being, you do and think things which validate your sense of fulfillment of self (and although you might make a decision to perform, to do, the ratzon Hashem, it is an independent decision validating your sense of who YOU are). The problem, of course, is that so do other beings, and with all beings focused on fulfilling their own selves, inevitable machlokes ensues, for they are not all working in tandem for a common cause. (And clearly this also creates the need for a Gehinnom, for now it becomes possible to “oppose” His will, as there is in the beri’ah a being which, at least in an illusory way, can have its own agenda, and thus perhaps may decide to oppose the will of Hashem.)

And so, if you have a minyan whose whole raison d’être is really only to daven vasikin — not to have a shul, not to have a kehillah, not for the rabbi to have a career, a salary, not kavod, not to provide a chevrah… and then one of the mispallelim go off and make a different minyan, based on a different shitah of when netz is, the natural reaction, I submit to you, is to shrug and to not react at all! Someone else is doing the exact same thing, albeit in a different way — why should that affect me, why should that upset me, why should we now split into two camps? Adaraba, on the contrary, we are now working together towards the same goal, each performing a different task! This is like the Ashkenazi, the Sephardi, the Chassid,and the Misnaged looking for a lost girl together. I have lost my personal agenda-powered chassidus, misnagdus, Sephardiyus, Ashkenaziyus in this search, because it melted away, due to its clear irrelevancy! One submerges oneself into ratzon Hashem — and different mahalchim become just that: different parts which make up a whole.

If a rav is working to elevate the spiritual level of people who have decided to daven at his shul…and another rav is doing the same for people who have decided to daven by him, what machlokes, why machlokes? Machlokes is possible if they were vying for members, for kavod, for status, for bragging rights… if they are looking out for themselves. If, though, they are completely devoted, and “lost” in their mission, there would just be a sense of– kol hakovod! And the same with schools. And the same with different types of chassidus; and the same with different yeshivas, or groups within a yeshivah, or a shul, or an apartment building!

Think now please about the machlokesim you know of (and remember that machlokes does NOT MEAN a difference of opinion, it means a split into two camps), and you will see that it is because there is a “self” aspect to opposing sides. It might even be couched as a wish to excel, that we’re right — but machlokes is ossur, nonetheless. But if the sides feel they are working together, albeit differently, on a common goal, then even if they are doing things differently, there’s no machlokes.

When the governing goal is ONLY ratzon Hashem, the natural state is no machlokes, for there is no self.

And so rabbosai and ladies: Instead of haranguing people about achdus, or even achdut, and ahavas Yisroel, or ahavat Yisra-el, ask yourself about motives. Most purveyors of an ahavas Yisrael political line that I have experience with have a personalized agenda of some sort, and hope to escape detection, and even criticism, under that cover. And if you ask them about other groups, you usually get an earful about what terrible, uncouth, horrible, sonei Yisroel THEY (these-ughhh-other groups) are!

And those who act lishmah, who as much as possible endeavor to be motivated solely by ratzon Hashem, are the ones beloved by all, get along with all chugim and shitos, even and especially the ones who stand even in direct contradistinction to their shitos and opinions.

With my remaining, quickly dwindling, word count allotment, I would like to address a question those of a more analytical bent may be asking, to wit: Pirkei Avos speaks of a machlokes which is l’shem shamayim — for the sake of Heaven, with no ulterior motives. The example given is the various machlokesim between Bais Shamai and Bais Hillel. Now, if l’shem shamayim means for the sake of Heaven, and, as the Bartenurah there explains, both groups were only searching for truth, then why did it erupt into machlokes? True, the Gemarra makes the point that it never degenerated into hatred, or spiteful, angry behavior, but why is it even called a machlokes? Weren’t they all on the same team?

Good question! You’re really thinking! The answer is that early and later Acharonim talk about how it was the very basic, intrinsic, fundamental nature of the talmidim of Bais Shammai and Beis Hillel which led them to have the opinions that they had. Certainly all their opinions were Torah and a result of intense Torah study and understanding — not personal. Yet the different intellectual conclusions they each reached was indeed based on something in them that made them what they were, and led them to formulate the ideas that they formulated (e.g, din; rachamim). Thus, it was a reflection of self, and can be called machlokes.