This week’s parshah focuses on the dispute between Korach and his followers against Moshe Rabbeinu. While on the outside it appears as Korach may have potentially had some legitimate points, the mishna in Pirkei Avos erases all doubts of that. “כל מחלוקת שהיא לשם שמים, סופה להתקים. ושאינה לשם שמים, אין סופה להתקים. איזו היא מחלוקת שהיא לשם שמים? זו מחלוקת הלל ושמאי. ושאינה לשם שמים? זו מחלוקת קרח וכל עדתו.” “Any dispute which is for the sake of Heaven will have a constructive outcome; but any dispute which is not for the sake of Heaven will not have a constructive outcome. What sort of dispute was for the sake of Heaven? The dispute of Hillel and Shammai. And which was not for the sake of Heaven? The dispute of Korach and his entire company.” (Avos 5:17). As much as Korach claimed he was acting on behalf of the entire nation, he really only wanted some extra honor for himself.
But what exactly makes something a מחלוקת שהיא לשם שמים, a dispute for the sake of Heaven, and what makes it the opposite? Let us examine the dispute of Hillel and Shammai and see what made it so special.
The gemarah in Eiruvin (13b) asks why we decide the halacha like Hillel over the opinion of Shammai (except for a handful of cases)? The reason given is because when they taught over the halacha in the beis medrash of Hillel, the teachers of Hillel’s school would give over the halacha they learned from their rebbi, Hillel, but not until they had given over the opinion of Shammai as well! The biggest thing Hillel was concerned with is that the truth of Torah should be told. Even in their own beis medrash, in order to make sure the students gave equal credence to both opinions, that they should consider either opinion when they made their personal halachic rulings, they told over their “opponents’” ruling first.
(Not to detract from Beis Shammai, the gemarah says that neither school held back from eating in each other’s houses or from marrying into each other’s families. There was a tremendous amount of respect and admiration on both sides of the aisle. However, in this specific act, Beis Hillel went above and beyond what was expected.)
The Rambam in his commentary on the mishna explains that this is the difference between a dispute for the sake of Heaven and one that is not. When two people come together with different opinions, if the point of their discussions is to find out the truth regardless of who is right or wrong, there will be a constructive and peaceful outcome at the end of it, no matter how much they might fight during the actual discussion! However, someone who comes and argues simply to have their opinion heard and will not stop until it is, nothing good will come of it. This, explains the mishna, was the dispute of Korach. Korach did not want to have a dialogue with Moshe, in fact, the medrash explains that they went out of their way to avoid any dialogue with him. He simply wanted to win the argument regardless of the truth.
There are numerous examples found in all sections of Torah where we see how important Shalom, peace, is to the Torah’s flourishing and how destructive machlokes can be. To bring one example of each: we know the famous teaching that when Bnei Yisrael reached Har Sinai, they reached a status of, “כאיש אחד בלב אחד”, “one man with one heart”. The entire nation had reached a stage of unity. It was at that time that Hashem decided that we were ready to receive the Torah. On the opposite end, Chazal tell us that the reason for the destruction of the Second Beis Hamikdash was because of baseless hatred between people.
In all times, but specifically now when we are all davening for the return of the three kidnapped boys, it is imperative for us to be unified. Instead of coming into a conversation like Korach, let’s try to be like Hillel and Shammai. Two of the greatest minds the world has ever seen, yet, when they met, their concern was not for their own opinions, but that the truth should win out. If we can reach this lofty goal, or at least show we are working toward it, there is no question that it will be a tremendous zchus for all of Klal Yisrael.
V’Shavu Banim L’Gvulam. May we be zoche to see the Beis Hamikdash rebuilt speedily in our days!
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