So if you are like me, when you received last week’s Chadash newspaper, you immediately turned to your favorite (English) section, the article by Rav Malinowitz. You turned the page — and your eyes immediately flew to the title of that week’s scintillating column. But wait! What is this? Rain, Rain, Don’t Stay Away… Part Two — “But Rain, Part Two was the previous week,” you mumbled to yourself, “and it usually takes me ten days to forget Rav Malinowitz’s article. This is only a week later, why did they reprint it? Did Rav Malinowitz run out of things to write about? I gradeh felt like he did a while ago already, will they be reprinting his old articles now? Maybe this should have said Part Three?” You started to read, and the puzzlement grew: “This is not about rain! This is an entirely new topic, something about Avraham Avinu, nisyonos, whatever… I wonder what happened with that title, I almost skipped the article, and Rav Malinowitz would’ve asked me anxiously, as he always does, if I read it, and he’d start talking to me about it… Boy, am I happy I started reading it and saw that it was indeed a fresh topic!”
You finished reading the article (hopefully; if not, quickly, go do so now!), and, as Rav Malinowitz’s articles are not exactly the fulcrum of your existence, promptly forgot about that weird title line. (The article, as we explained, takes ten days to be consigned to oblivion. But the title, even a weird one, takes only an hour.)
Now, that’s easy for you, the reader. But someone wrote that article (okay, I own up to it, I did) And contrary to popular belief, I actually put time and effort into writing them (not always so noticeable, but hey…). And as any chef will tell you, something in the brain clicks when food gets presented to a person, and the opinion formed about that dish will, to a large degree, depend on that first impression (this actually has halachic ramifications, though I assume Maseches Uktzin is not high on your priority list of things to learn right now). Well, it’s the same with a newspaper column. The title says it all for most people; it is on that basis that they’ll decide if they will be reading it, and with a repeate title, the readers would surely assume that they already read this brilliant exposition. Someone really messed up the printing of the title, boosting the chances that a reader would simply turn to the next page, as so many of you in any event do. It really really bothered me.
It disturbed you? It bothered you to no end? Why? Aren’t you always preaching that anything that happens to a person is a gezeiras shamayim, decreed from Hashem , and that a fundamental element of trusting and relying on Hashem (bitachon) requires clarity and internalization of that basic idea? Yet here you are, irritated, distressed, and annoyed about, for goodness’ sake, a composition title!
Oh, dear reader, it gets worse. I got angry! Perhaps not enraged, but certainly indignant and fuming. Alright, even outraged and furious.
Angry? Are you serious? Anger, one of the more serious of ugly middos that we are to avoid at all costs?Anger, which is akin, Chazal tell us, to worshipping avoda zora? Anger, so detrimental to one’s spiritual (and many also insist physical) health? Anger, which all mussar sefarim rail against and advise to distance oneself from as much as possible? Anger, concerning which the Rambam writes that it is a negative trait to an extreme, and that a person should train himselfherself to be hardened against that character trait as much as possible, even if and when warranted?
And so I went over to my wife (who quickly scanned the open paper before I would realize that no, of course she had not read it [yet]) and said, “Look at what they did to my article, look how they bungled this, they are so unprofessional! No, it’s because they really have no respect at all for what I write. I’ll bet you it’s the fault of that English Editor, what’s-the — name, they don’t care, they are always careless and unthinking, irresponsible and really indifferent towards other people’s writings.”
Loshon hora? Motzi shem ra? What are you doing? What happened to all those Hilchos Loshon Hora that you learn? What happened to all the warnings of the Chofetz Chaim concerning the terrible damage wrought by speaking evil of other people?
I continued railing against the poor, overworked, hassled, frazzled, English editor: “This is inexcusable! This is indefensible! This is intolerable and unforgiveable!”
Inexcusable? Really? You cannot think of any mitigating factors that would have been the cause of this? After all, it might have been an unusually busy week for the poor editor. Maybe you were the cause of this mishap by neglecting to write the correct title in its proper place; you relegated it to the subject line of the e-mail. And anyway, it is really not the responsibility of the English editor, who does the editor job diligently and industriously, and anyway, mistakes will occur in a newspaper the size of, and with the range and scope of, Chadash. What happened to being dan l’kaf zechus, judging people favorably, giving them the benefit of the doubt, being gracious and realizing that a flesh-and-blood person will always be less than 100 percent perfect?
Well, you can be sure that I communicated my displeasure to the editor, giving said editor a piece of my mind. I remonstrated, I bickered, I hammered away at this apparently unforgiveable sin. The editor answered, I replied. It became writer vs. editor, a conceptual clash of wills and roles. This pretty innocuous oversight was actually turning into a bitter dispute (at my end).
Dispute? Machlokes? YOU, who wrote those articles about the pernicious effects of machlokes, how it affects the spiritual worlds that we create, how it is one of the very few middos that the Torah warns about virtually explicitely, how it upsets the balance and symmetry of Klal Yisrael’s multi-faceted essence? You have let a low-level fluke create dissension and disharmony?
to be continued…