Upon receiving the Divine Command to strike Amolek, Shaul Hamelech was tormented by an inner conflict. "Vayorev banachal." Rashi quotes the Chazal (Yoma 22:), "About the matter of `Nachal,' he (Shaul) struggled (Vayorev) with himself and considered; if because of one soul (that was found murdered) the Torah says to break the neck of a heifer by the nachal (with all the accompanying procedures that demonstrate the great value the Torah places on each and every life), then surely [we should consider the value of] all these souls (that Shaul had been commanded to destroy). And if man sinned, but how did the animals sin? If the adults sinned but what did the children sin? Thereupon a Bas Kol went out and stated, "Al tehi tzaddik harbei," do not be overrighteous!
Is it possible that after hearing Hashem`s explicit command to wipe out Amolek without mercy, Shaul Hamelech even considered not carrying it out? He whom a Bas Kol called the bechir Hashem (Brochos 12) and of whom Chazal (Yoma ibid.) tell us he was innocent and pure as a one year old baby? Is it possible that he doubted the justice of Hashem`s command? Furthermore, if so the Bas Kol, instead of just saying not to be overrighteous, should have said not to be a rosho!
Hagaon Reb Isser Zalman Meltzer explains this Chazal: "Heaven forbid that Shaul entertained any such thoughts. His every intention was to fulfill the divine command to perfection. However he was afraid lest his character be influenced by the cruelty of his actions. Therefore Shaul Hamelech immersed himself in contemplating how dear human life is as taught in the parsha of Egloh Arufoh."
R' Isser Zalman concluded, "So if that is the case why then did Shaul incur heavenly rebuke? Is it not admirable to purify one`s traits especially when faced with a nisoyon?
"The answer is that Shaul should have waited until after the battle was fought. Concentrating on the mido of mercy before having to carry out a command that requires repressing that very mido only served to weaken Shaul`s resolve to unflinchingly destroy Amolek. The results were disastrous both for Shaul, who lost his claim to the monarchy, and to all of Klal Yisroel who continue to suffer from Amolek until this very day! It was this overrighteousness that the Bas Kol addressed: Don`t be overly a tzaddik, it would have sufficed to absorb the lesson of Egloh Arufoh after fulfilling Hashem`s command.
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The aftermath of a particularly bruising Israeli election campaign was an occasion for a sichah from Maran HaRav Shach shlita. A religious splinter party had for a number of years rebelled against the authority of the great Torah Sages of that time. They even stooped to attacking the Steipler Gaon ztvk"l by hurling personal insults at him. Avreichim and older bochurim were mobilized to garner as many votes as possible for the Torah party at the expense of the rebels. Success was complete, the splinter party was wiped off the political map. This result was accompanied by no small measure of rejoicing on the part of the avreichim and bochurim.
It was this point that was the focus of HaRav Shach`s shmuess. He reminded the tzibbur that they were bnei Torah and it does not befit them to gloat over their enemies' downfall, "Binefol oyvechoh al tismach!" Likewise he reminded them that they had been working for the sake of the Torah`s glory and not avenging a personal vendetta. Rabbosai, middos!
HaRav Shach then said over the above insight from HaRav Isser Zalman and concluded: Some of you may be thinking that it would have been more appropriate to have given this shmuess before the campaign, but then we would be repeating Shaul Hamelech`s mistake. A shmuess beforehand might have hindered the bochurim`s zeal in carrying out the will of the gedolim and the results would have not been the same. Now that it is over let us take to heart the message of middos tovos!
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The State of Israel in its infancy already saw much officially sanctioned chillul Shabbos, Rachmono Litzlan. One of the leading figures in the forefront of the heated demonstrations protesting the desecration of our holy Shabbos was HaRav Sholom Schwadron zt'l. A group of religious Jews who happened on the scene of one such demonstration chided R' Sholom: "Why is everyone getting so worked up? `The ways of the Torah are pleasant,' you have to deal with the situation calmly, take it easy, etc."
Not long afterwards, Reb Sholom came upon this very same group in the midst of a very heated discussion. "Yemach shemom!" bellowed one fellow. "Such reshoim!" shouted a second, "How can they do such a thing?"
Reb Sholom became very concerned, "What happened?"
"What, didn't you hear? The government has instituted income taxes!"
"Aha!" Reb Sholom thought and then delivered his rejoinder, "Why get so worked up? `The ways of the Torah are pleasant,' act calmly, like you told me."
Reb Sholom then proceeded to rebuke them, "When it concerns chillul Shabbos you preach calmness, but when the issue is income taxes and your pocket all of a sudden you forget all the niceties and explode with indignation."
Thereupon Reb Sholom launched into one of his famous stories.
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The grandson of the gabbai of the Gra Shul in Sha'arei Chessed where Reb Sholom resided, was called Meirka. One day Meirka and his friend were playing outside of Reb Sholom`s house. Suddenly Meirka fell down, splitting open his head. Reb Sholom and his rebbetzin sprang into action and together began rushing Meirka to the nearest doctor. The boy's wound was bleeding freely and had stained Reb Sholom's shirt, drawing much attention from bystanders.
From a distance Reb Sholom noticed the boy`s grandmother looking their way. Before he could say anything the grandmother, who mistook the boy for one of Reb Sholom`s children, called out soothingly, "Don`t worry, it will be all right, the Aibershter will help . . ."
Reb Sholom thought to himself, "Let`s see what she says when she realizes exactly who was hurt."
Sure enough, as soon as they got closer and the woman recognized her grandson she changed her tune and began screaming hysterically, "Oy gevald! — It's my Meirka!"
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As he concluded his story, Reb Sholom faced the group of Yidden and admonished them, "Everyone has his `Meirka,' something he holds so dear that he throws all calm to the winds, something so precious that when threatened it elicits a heated and excited reaction. The question is, what is your Meirka? My Meirka is Shabbos kodesh while your Meirka is income taxes!"
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Maran HaRav Shach shlita in his approbation to sefer Mitzvas Hasholom by HaRav Yosef Dovid Epstein writes a few short sentences encapsulating an important aspect of mitzvas sholom.
First HaRav Shach extols the benefits of the sefer which deals with the all important mitzvo of sholom. HaRav Shach then continues, "It is of course self evident that all the above pertains to all except those of whom it says, `Tachlis sinoh seneisim, le'oyvim hoyu li` (Tehillim 139:22), `With the utmost hatred I hate them, I regard them as my own enemies.' Although in our generation it is not in our hands to conduct ourselves in this manner and today there is no benefit from such conduct, however it is clear that separation and distancing [from reshoim] in the proper form is essential, especially since [the fault] is not with us, for it is they who are separating and splitting from the path of the Torah and the ways of the community, and we are not to blame.
"However, the rule of `seek peace and pursue it' applies and HaKodosh Boruch Hu did not find a vessel to contain blessing besides peace, and may Hashem bless His nation with peace".
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There are sometimes issues that cut into the very fabric of Yiddishkeit that are bona fide "Meirka"s which should be aggressively defended. Yet because of our abhorrence of machlokes on the one hand and lassitude stemming from losing sight of our "Meirka" on the other hand, we often criticize others who are waging a campaign, as ba'alei machlokes even in those cases that aggressive protest is warranted.
Is it not in such instances that the words of HaRav Shach echo the words of the Bas Kol, "Al tehi tzaddik harbei!" the rule of seeking peace does not always apply. Indeed, the word "sholom" also contains the root "complete." We must preserve the completeness of our Torah and only then will we merit true peace.
Of course, we must be in control of our midos and not vice a versa. It is true that as a rule we should always be rodef sholom, and this will certainly be the applicable principle in most cases. However, in those rare instances when we must, we should not hesitate to stand up for what is right and to courageously defend the honor of Hashem and His Torah.
We should always weigh which course of action constitutes a chillul Hashem and which leads to kiddush Hashem. This is not always easy to discern. No individual can pasken on his own about who is included in the category of "mesan'echo Hashem" (Tehillim ibid.). However we should not automatically dismiss all protests as machlokes. We should invest our energies in determining the truth. Of course, the psak is ultimately the responsibility of the gedolim whose advice we must seek.
It is easy to see that these arguments can be used by each party of a machlokes to strengthen the extreme version of their position and not seek compromise. This cannot be avoided. Ours is a world of nisyonos, and we should seek the truth and merit to find it.
It must be stressed that the writer does not have any specific issue in mind. The article is not preaching zealous militancy. It is just a call not to be mafkir issues that are truly vital to Yiddishkeit, not to compromise away matters that we are not allowed to. Not to be lulled into complacency by claiming "sholom" when it is really "sholom olai nafshi"!
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In keeping with Reb Isser Zalman`s teaching, after having said these difficult words, it is fitting to finish off with a thought of chizuk on the calamity of machlokes.
Midrash Rabbah (Shmos 41:1) states that the ovdei ha'egel brought mann as a sacrifice before the eigel. Mann was available on the day of cheit ho'eigel! Even while Bnei Yisroel were committing the most severe aveiro, avoda zorah, Hashem in His great mercy continued to provide for them. Yet we find that on the day of the machlokes of Korach, Chazal say that no mann fell! (Midrash brought in Shevet Mussar ch.37)