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9 Tammuz 5760 - July 12, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Truth and Peace Converged

by L. Jungerman

"The entire congregation saw that Aharon had passed away and all the House of Israel mourned Aharon for thirty days." Rashi notes that "all the House of Israel" includes the men and the women, since Aharon pursued peace and would promote love where there was dissension between man and wife or man and fellow man.

We find, however, that at the end of Devorim, regarding Moshe Rabbenu's demise, it is written, "And the Children of Israel mourned Moshe in the plains of Moav for thirty days." We do not find the added emphasis of "all." Rashi explains the reason: "The Children of Israel -- the males." Aharon pursued peace and established peace between man and wife so that even the women mourned him.

This idea is expanded upon in Ovos deR' Nosson: "The Torah of truth was in his mouth and injustice was not found upon his lips. He walked in peace and with straightforwardness, and many did he prevent from sinning." When Aharon walked along and chanced to meet a wicked person, he would greet him warmly. On the following day, that sinner was tempted to sin, but he stopped short and said, `Oh, no! How will I be able to face Aharon if I meet him again, knowing that I have sinned? And he did greet me.' Thus it was that the sinner withheld himself from evil.

"And why did all of Israel mourn Aharon for thirty days, women inclusive, as it is written, ` . . . all the House of Israel,' whereas by Moshe it only states `Israel [mourned him]?' This is because Moshe was a true judge who gave reproof with words. Aharon, however, never accused a person to his face and said, `You sinned.'"

HaGaon R' Avrohom Yitzchok Bloch zt'l, rosh yeshivas Telz, formulates the obvious question:

We see from the above that a person's conduct should be directed towards peace, even if it means veering somewhat from the strict truth. Just like Aharon did. But Moshe's way was different: he represented absolute truth. The question we must ask is: if Aharon's way was preferable, why didn't Moshe, who was the prototype of all subsequent prophets, pursue it? Moshe was nonpareil!

The answer lies in a deeper analysis.

It is written in Sanhedrin 6b: It is forbidden to mediate between two litigants; whoever does so sins. Justice must be served, no matter what. It brooks no compromise. How, then, reconcile Aharon's practice of pursuing peace? His path also seems to be valid and to comply with truth.

It is clear that the two brothers walked different paths, with there being no contradiction in this fact. This is because teaching truth is not the same as practicing it in real life.

Truth can be expressed in two ways: first, whereby the one who disseminates it and declares it to be true does so by virtue of his inner clarity that his belief is true. This is not at all tempered by the listener, the one upon whom he wishes to impose his outlook.

The second manner is by relating to the other person and understanding him and, from this vantage point, to influence him in a way suited for him to accept the truth, according to his strengths and makeup. In other words, to convince the other person why, in his own sight, the truth is binding to him.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. In the first method, in starkly presenting the unadorned truth, there is greater clarity and force, for thus truth rings out clear like a clarion. The disadvantage here is that not everyone is able to embrace such a perfect truth for we are imperfect mortals.

In the second method there is a danger in tailoring truth to each customer, each person according to his particular makeup of weaknesses and strengths. Truth loses much of its impact and value this way and the receiver may not accept it fully or will accept secondary rather than primary aspects. This is why it is necessary for the voice of Hashem to ring out loud and clear, in full potency and might, in total glory and grandeur, to make the maximum impression that will never fade, that will guide a person through life in general, and through his personal life and the hurdles he will face due to his individual weaknesses.

First he must be convinced of the absoluteness of the Torah truth, that there is no other way. It is fundamental and binding upon all. Once he has accepted this basic premise, we can attempt to appeal to this or that side of a person's nature and make it palatable to him so that it will guide him through life.


The teaching of truth must be all encompassing and make a total impact. A person must feel that there is no alternative. For if something is tailored to the individual, and in the process is cut to size or adjustments made, it will no longer be the full truth; something will be lacking and no matter what or how small, it will introduce imperfection which will flaw the truth by very definition. Torah must be transmitted intact, perfectly, without mitigating considerations. Pure and whole. Unadulterated.

Its application in life must be in such a manner that it leads to the desired goal. To this end, it is necessary to take into consideration what approach is best to achieve this. And here the individual element comes into play, for not everyone is capable of absorbing the naked truth as are exalted beings. Not everyone is at a high level and even within a person, there are times when he is elevated spiritually and capable of absorbing more than at other times, when he is in a lower state. In order for Torah to penetrate to the heart of the listener, it is necessary to find the right approach, the personal appeal that will make it binding to him, which is through the introduction of peace.

The task of Moshe Rabbenu, the giver and transmitter of the Torah, was to present Torah in full glory, in totality, with full impact. Anything of lesser degree would have detracted from it and it would no longer be the absolute unmitigated truth.

But Torah is no mere intellectual exercise of study; it is life, and it must be applied to life's circumstances through justice and conduct.

When it comes to applying it to the community as a whole, it must be total and pure, for the world depends on it. Aharon, however, was entrusted to inject the Torah into people's hearts by overcoming natural weaknesses, by an individual approach that highlighted their strengths and circumvented their weaknesses. He needed the attribute of peace to achieve this goal.

Moshe Rabbenu was the symbol of Torah, and he exemplified it in every way. He was the voice of Hashem in strength: pure and potent. No compromise, no quarter, no adaptations. The law is supreme and inviolate. If the listeners are not capable of absorbing it at this point, it will endure for other generations to accept. Still, there is need for an `Aharon' to come and plant it within the hearts of the people, each according to his propensity, through love and understanding and not strict justice.

Pure truth as presented by Moshe was absorbed into the hearts of each person through the peaceful presentation of Aharon.

It is necessary to remember, however, that the one who treads the path of peace can reach his intended goal only when the foundation, the beginning through to the end, comply to the truth. One need not confront a person with the accusation that he sinned, for this may distance him. He can be made to reach that realization, and to repent and mend his ways, through love.

Aharon, who transmitted to us the method of teaching truth by introducing it through peace, was not silent in the face of sin. He did not ignore evil. But in coming to chastise the sinner, he looked for a good side to him. He sought a tender spot in the sinner's heart to appeal to, whereby the sinner would himself realize his sin. "The Torah of truth was in his mouth." The truth was pure and true, it was the Torah of Moshe, but he applied it with pleasantness, "with straightforwardness did he walk with Hashem and many did he restrain from sin."

Aharon loved peace and pursued peace. He loved his fellow man and drew him close to Torah. His love for man and his pursuit of peace was for the purpose of drawing people close to Torah and enabling them to absorb its pure truth.

Such peace leads to the goal of truth. When the truth is bent and manipulated for the sake of peace, when it is repressed and adulterated for the sake of love of mankind, not only does truth suffer but even peace will not be attained. It will be a truncated peace, for peace not based upon a foundation of truth is destructive, not constructive; it is fear and not peace.

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