Based on Rabbi Yissocher Frand
Transcribed by Mordechai Lewis
The concept of sholom and machlokes among family members isn’t an uncommon phenomenon. Unfortunately, it is all too common. In fact, the Medrash (see Bereishis Rabbah 84:6) says it’s almost ubiquitous. The history of the world is that all brothers hated each other. From the beginning of time, “Kayin hated Hevel, Yishmael hated Yitzchak, Eisav hated Yaakov and the Shevatim hated Yoseif” (Tanchuma, Parshas Shemos 27:1). This is history! Since the beginning of humanity, brothers were at each other’s throats, literally and figuratively! Nevertheless, the Medrash is telling us that this is part of creation. Siblings don’t get along. Perhaps this is indicated from the Gemara, which states, “A man’s enemies are the people of his household” (Sotah 49b).
If any of you ever need the incentive to make sholom with the members of your family, what I’m going to tell you will give you all the incentives you ever needed.
There is a mind-boggling posuk which we read on Yom Kippur, “Then you will call and Hashem will respond; you will cry (scream) out and He will say, ‘Heneini, Here I am!’ (Yeshayah 58:9) Do you know what the word heneini means and how it is used in Tanach? Heneini is the equivalent of saying, “Here I am – at your service!” There are 14 places* in Tanach where you have the expression, “V’Yomar heneini or V’Yomeir heneini” – each time it’s a subordinate responding to a Superior. There is, however, one exception. Hashem says, “Call out, Scream, and ‘I’ will answer, [HENEINI] HERE ‘I’ AM, AT YOUR SERVICE!!! *(Bereishis 22: 1, 7, 11; 27:18; 46:2, Shemos 3:4; Daniel 8:19 and Shmuel I – 3: 4, 5, 6, 8, 16; 22:12 and Yeshayah 58:9)
Isn’t that amazing?! Hashem, as it were, says to us, “What can I do for you?” What on earth, do we do to get that type of reaction? Do you have to immerse yourself in the mikvah three hundred times, say tehillim all whole day or fast forty days and forty nights? The Gemara provides us with a simpler method, “One who draws his relatives close [be nice to your brother-in-law]” (Yevamos 62b). As it is written, “Then you will call and Hashem will respond; you will cry (scream) out and He will say, ‘Heneini, Here I am!” (Yeshayah 58:9)
What’s the explanation behind this? If you want your tefillos to get answered all you have to do is be nice to your relatives and then Hashem will say, “Heneini, Here I am!” However, this is one exception. Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai says, “If one has transgressed lashon hora his prayer does not go up in front of G-d because there rests on it a spirit of defilement” (Zohar, Metzorah, page 53a, ‘רִבִּי יְהוּדָה אָמַר’).
The Maharal says, “A person who turns to those who are close to him – his neighbors, his relatives or his niece – and draws them closer is rewarded in kind. Hashem declares, “I too am your Relative (karov)” and He responds to that person’s own needs (see Devarim Rabbah 2:15), as the posuk says: “For which great nation has a G-d Who is close (kerovim) to it, as is Hashem, our G-d, whenever we call to Him!!!” [(i.e. like a relative) Devarim 4:7)]. It’s a very simple formula. Hashem says, “I’m your relative. I’ll treat you like My relative. I just have to find out one thing, ‘How do you treat your relatives?” That’s what sets the tone.
Of course, there’s a flipside to it. If you don’t treat your relatives with the proper respect that they deserve, then Hashem says, “That’s the way I’ll treat you!
What does it mean to treat your relatives with the improper respect?
Like I said before loshon hora. The Chofeitz Chayim tells a few halachos that many people are unaware of:
“It is forbidden to speak loshon hora – a derogatory statement that is true – about relatives; this includes parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, a spouse or in-laws (see Hilchos Loshon Hora 8:1-3; 12 and 13). Even to speak Loshon Hora jokingly about relatives or any Jew is also prohibited” (Hilchos Loshon Hora 3:3).
We all know that there’s a mitzvah of HaChnosas Orchim (inviting guests). However, what is the essence of HaChnosas Orchim? Some may answer, “When you see someone in shul that no one is giving attention to and you decide to invite him to your house; that’s the best type of HaChnosas Orchim. The Rav Chaim ben Betzalel says, “You invite your relatives (to your house). For that, in essence, is the primary mitzvah of HaChnosas Orchim! (Sefer HaChayim 3:3 “וראוי לאדם לקרב…”)
Then he continues, “There was a custom in Klal Yisrael that every family designated a specific day of the year, in which they made a Seudah. The Seudah itself did not take place on a Yom Tov. Where does it say that? The Novi states, “For we have a family feast-offering in the city…” (Shmuel I 20:29) What does that mean in English? That means the family barbecue! (I.e. having a Labor Day picnic on July 4th). What type of yom tov is Labor Day? You make it into a Yom Tov with your family. Anything that promotes family unity is a worthwhile endeavor.
Some people might be thinking to themselves, “This topic is not something that I have to be concerned about! I love mother-in-law and she loves me. I’m at peace with my brothers and sisters. Finally, a topic that I don’t have to feel guilty about!”
This topic is applicable to everyone. Because, if you have never been in a machlokes with any of your family members, it’s still a Mishnah:
“These are the precepts whose fruits a person enjoys in This World but whose principal remains intact for him in the World to Come. They are honor due to father and mother… bringing peace between man and his fellow…” (Pei’ah 1:1)
What is different about peace, versus everything else mentioned in Eilu Devarim? The Medrash tells us that many of the mitzvos require a certain time and place for their performance. Whereas the mitzvah of, “Seek peace and pursue it,” (Tehillim 34:15) is not bound by time. We have to continually strive to promote and maintain peace in our own lives and the lives of others (Seek Peace and Pursue It by David J. Lieberman, page xi).
I would venture to say that each person knows at least one family that’s in a machlokes. Try to bring sholom. Bringing sholom is no easy task and can be a difficult thing. It will not take you hours or days. Sometimes, it will take you months or even sometimes years! Still, you should bring sholom. That’s your ticket to Olam HaBah (see Pele Yo’etz, entries “שכר מצוה” and “מחלוקת”).
Do you know what it is, that you must try to make people aware of? That when they are in a machlokes, they sincerely, honestly, profoundly and deeply believe, “I’m right… and he or she is wrong!” In Parshas Korach, the posuk says, “There shall no more be like Korach and his followers” (Bamidbar 17:5). The Gemara does indeed use “There shall no more be like Korach and his congregation,” as an independent – negative commandment as one of the 613 mitzvos of the Torah – not to maintain a quarrel (Sanhedrin 110a). Rather, “Be among the disciples of Aharon, loving sholom and pursuing sholom, loving people and bringing them closer to Torah” (Pirkei Avos 1:12).
Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt”l, once explained that the posuk “There shall no more be like Korach and his followers” (Bamidbar 17:5), is a prediction as well. ‘There will never again be such a one-sided argument, where one party was so clearly right and the other party so clearly wrong as in this case of Korach and his followers arguing with Moshe Rabbeinu. This was a case where one side was 100% right and the other side 100% wrong. Never again would there be such a morally lopsided argument.’ The Torah is asserting that never again in history will there ever be such a machlokes where it is so clear-cut who is right and who is wrong. Perhaps, in the future perhaps there may be a machlokes where one party is 99 percent right. There may be a machlokes that are tilted 90/10 or 80/20 in favor of one side. However, we will never have as clear-cut a dispute as that of Korach.
Sometimes we have reason to be angry with someone or to be in a state of dispute with someone. We may, in fact, be ‘almost’ right! Nevertheless, it is only ‘almost’. Maybe the other person’s reaction to a certain thing we did or said was very inappropriate and totally out of proportion. Nevertheless, maybe, there was some element of error on our part in what we did or said in the first place to trigger the reaction. Even for the 10% or 5% of the blame that may be attributable to our initial remarks or actions, it is worthwhile to apologize (see Rosh Hashanah 17a) – even if 90-95% of the blame is with the other party. The meaning of “There will not be like Korach and his Congregation” is that no one will ever be 100% right, totally beyond the realm of blame and apology (see Forgiveness by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski).
In general, having a machlokes specifically with your family is like walking around with a burden on your back. They will be freer, happier and you will be doing them the biggest favor. All He wants from us is that we should be sholom among one another. Tanna Devei Eliyahu Rabbah states the following:
“My beloved children, what do I [Hashem] ask of you? Only that you love one another and respect one another” (chapter 28:1).
Is that too much for our Father in Heaven to demand of us?! As the Ksav Sofer zt”l, says, “True peace is when people feel love for one another and are happy for each other’s good fortune.” With Hashem’s help, may we merit maintaining unity among our children, families, and within our own nation!
This article is dedicated in memory of Tuvyah Shlomo ben Naftali Tzvi HaKohein z”l
To view this article online, go to www.sefaria.org/sheets/47862. For comments or feedback, please email email@example.com.