One of our readers drew our attention to a letter from R'
Yosef Zundel of Salant zt'l written to R' Eliyohu Dov
Levinson of Kartinga who, aside from his greatness in Torah
and his piety, was also a wealthy and very generous man. R'
Dov did much for the sake of the Yishuv settlement in Eretz
From this letter, it appears that some disreputable people
mocked him and demanded that he resign from his position of
gabbai. Perhaps they were influenced by similar
treatment and slander against HaRav Meir Auerbach zt'l,
author of Imrei Binah, in the infamous controversy
involving the Radeshkovtzky court. At the time of the writing
of this letter, Jerusalem was in turmoil.
There was no quarrel, for only one side was contending. Why
did the quarrel erupt after they came from abroad? Because
here they were put to the test, and since they were in the
wrong, the angel caused them to err even more.
The method: through fabricated stories and lies — and
smear publicity. How did they acquire signatures for these
posters? What is the spiritual license for dissension?
It all begins with bitul Torah and greed. A historical
document from Hatzaddik R' Yosef Zundel of Salant. (p.
Only the Study of Mussar Can Prevent Dissension
21 Teves, 5624 (1864), Jerusalem
Peace and blessings to my dear friend, HaRav HaGaon . . .
Morenu HaRav Eliyohu of Kartinga . . .
Your letter of the 16th of Cheshvan arrived. In it, you asked
me whether to continue with the business or not. You say that
you were requested by worthy people who want to see righteous
ones involved in public affairs, and this is a good thing.
Chazal comment (Bovo Basra 8) that the words, "Like
the brilliance of the sky do they shine," refer to those who
toil for the public welfare, like gabbo'ei tzedokoh.
And we find in the Yerushalmi (last chapter of
Peiah, halocho 7) that R' Yossi came to a place and
wanted to appoint communal trustees, but no one was willing
to assume such a responsibility. He told them about the
person who was in charge of the wicks for the Menora and for
Simchas Beis Hashoeva, and was given the status in the Next
World alongside great people. "You, too," he told the
townspeople, "will receive great reward if you assume public
responsibility, especially since you are appointed over
matters having to do with people's lives." Based on this
Yerushalmi, the ruling in the Beis Yosef (Yoreh
Dei'ah 257) is that one may not refuse a public office if
he is approached to accept it. And is it a small thing that
we also see that public servants are given a Mi
Shebeirach every Shabbos in every shul throughout the
But if you resign, you will not receive the reward. Even
though you write that you are so preoccupied and are not able
to do justice to the position, despite all this, accept it
and be blessed and those who assist you will be blessed. We
find (Mishnayos Makkos I:7) that even one who is
secondary to the one who actually performs the mitzvah gets
the same reward. But especially, if those who are involved
are capable, honest and efficient, even the little they do
will be of great public benefit.
While you argue that most people shun the responsibility,
this is all the more reason for you not to evade it. This is
how the criticizers, may they live and do teshuvoh
(for we do not want any Jew to be punished because of
something he did to us, as it says in Zecharya (7:10)
. . . and Medrash Rabbah Vayeiro 49 . . . Sotah 38
. . . Tanna Devei Eliahu 18 . . .) and chas
vesholom, I do not assume that they want to harm any
But this is how they behave: When a treasurer is appointed
who is honest and upright, they slander him in order to
discredit him in public and have him ousted so that another
can take his place, one whom they can manipulate according to
their will. As we see it written in Mishlei 29: "Evil
men despise the pious, and the straightforward shall seek
him." . . . But even if they curse and abuse, he (i.e. you)
should nevertheless stand firm, as we find in Yerushalmi
Peiah (Ibid.) in the story about R' Eliezer and R' Akiva
that the main reward one receives is precisely when the poor
people abuse and curse the gabboim. And this is also
cited in Yoreh Dei'ah 257:7.
With regard to what you said concerning the cause of the
controversy, this cannot properly be called merivoh,
since you need two sides for a machlokes, such as Beis
Shammai say posul and Beis Hillel say kosher. But if
the second side does not reply, it is a one-sided issue and
not a merivoh. [See the remarks of the Tosafos Yom Tov
in Ovos on the controversy of Korach, which was called
the Battle of Korach and his congregation, and not Korach vs.
In this case the dissenters, may they live and repent, at the
present are seeking excuses and lies to malign the
geonim who are upright and honest, HaRav HaGaon of
Kutna, author of Zeis Ra'anan, and HaRav HaGaon of
Kalish (R' Meir Auerbach, author of Imrei Binah), and
upright men of truth, may they be blessed, to abuse them here
The honest people here, even though they see and hear the
slander and lies, could really reply to them and argue and
deny them and show them to be wrong. But they chose to hear
their abuse and refrain from replying; they pretend they are
deaf and dumb, as if they had nothing to say. For the best
thing in such a case is to remain silent, as it say, "Do not
answer [the fool . . .] (Mishlei 24:4) and as is
written in Mishlei (26:20), "Where no wood is, the
fire goes out, and where there is no tale-bearer, strife
As for your being surprised about people who were silent when
they were abroad but in Eretz Yisroel have become quarrel
mongers, this is because in the diaspora, they were not
confronted by a nisoyon, but here they are. Not
everyone can withstand a test, and therefore we pray, "Do not
bring us to a test." The can be for various reasons.
But that is their way, may they live and repent, for they are
chachomim, and thus their wisdom is from an angel. For
we see in Tanna Devei Eliahu Zutta (50) that if a
person makes himself a righteous man who speaks only truth,
he is assigned a guardian angel who treats him as a
tzaddik who speaks truth. But if a person begins
telling lies and denying the truth, he is assigned an evil
angel who helps him with falsehood and encourages him to be
evil. See the source. In the way he chooses to go, whether
for good or not, so is he led until the end. In whichever way
he accustoms himself and conducts himself, to this end is he
assisted and abetted by the counsel of his assigned angel,
for the better or for the worse. He may be assigned an angel
who gives him advice, as it were, as to how to establish lies
and to help him be believed both here and there.
This is what happens to people [even great tzaddikim]
who come to Eretz Yisroel. [Some] are attracted by the
stories they hear from those who seek their support, and
deceived by lies and false tales they tell regarding our
great men, men of truth, stories which they innovate each
day. If a person is easily influenced, he will believe the
false things he hears and he will agree to write and sign his
name upon the slanderous posters and public letters that are
printed up and distributed abroad. And having signed once and
twice, it becomes permissible to him to sign and slander, and
he will even consider it an honor to be counted among the
other important figures who signed, like "a pot that makes a
lot of noise" (Koheles 7:6) . . . and he will consider
it a mitzvah to publicize those who flatter as he
And if he is not a naive person who is taken in so easily,
but is poor and destitute with dependents, he is then bribed
or coaxed through words and money and promised that if he
supports them and joins them, he will benefit in so many ways
and if not, he will suffer deprivation. As is known, poverty
is a very strong factor which can turn a person against his
beliefs and against the opinion of his Maker (Eruvin
And if he is not poor and is not naive and does not want to
listen to them and they still wish to have him on their side,
they ask him to be a mediator between them and the camp of
the rabbonim and the men of truth neirom yo'ir,
and thereby they have created an excuse to visit him
frequently and to tell him much slander and badmouthing of
the rabbis. They ply him with lies and more lies until he
joins them and signs their public posters and helps them.
Then they say in chutz la'aretz, "This man has no
ulterior motive; he is unbiased, and yet he supports them.
They most probably are telling the truth . . . "
As for the reason for this controversy, we do not know it.
All we see is that they are like the waves of the ocean,
forever rushing forward, always fomenting trouble, frothing,
never at peace. All the time, they incite people, persuade
them to help them in their battle. But those who abet them
are sadly misguided. They have forgotten what is written in
Tanchuma Parshas Korach: Come and see how difficult is
controversy. For everyone who is an accomplice to it is
effaced; Hashem eradicates his memory, as is written, "And a
fire burst forth from Hashem and consumed the 150 men." In
the Korach controversy, even one-day-old infants were burned
and swallowed into the ground, as it is written, "And their
wives and sons and children."
I think that this may be related to what is written in
Sotah about the things that happen in the footsteps of
Moshiach, or in Chagigah (see Tosafos 14), or maybe
chas vesholom it is related to what it says in the
Zohar Bereishis (25a and b) about the five kinds of
people . . . and of those who remain in the Fourth Exile . .
. for they abused Torah leaders whom it calls "necklaces for
G-d forbid that we think badly of those who dwell in Zion,
for all the community is holy and immersed in Torah study,
good deeds and charity. You cannot find another city like
this in chutz la'aretz that compares to this City of
the Great King. Chas vesholom, I do not suspect
anyone. Certainly their aliyah was lesheim
Shomayim as we pray, "It is our will to do Your will and
who keeps us from this? . . ."
And in particular each individual who comes to Eretz Yisroel
is twice as good as he was in chutz la'aretz (see
Kesuvos 45b and Menochos 42). There is just a
very tiny minority whose yetzer is very strong . . .
and I do not want to mention their names. Woe is me if I say
and woe is me if I do not say. If I say, the fact is that
they are still called sons . . . or servants . . . and if I
do not say perhaps the people of chutz la'aretz will
believe what they say and write and print lies and
falsehoods and there will be chilul Hashem, chas
And I will reveal some of their ways, but cover it as night,
these people are forced by their yetzer, as it says in
Kiddushin (30b) . . .
And the main thing is that the yetzer can harm through
bitul Torah and running after kovod and money.
And from this one can chas vesholom come to serious
sins like jealousy, hatred, lies, mockery, machlokes,
loshon hora, rechilus, to be uplifted by the disgrace of
his friend, to disgrace his friend in public, to disgrace the
pure of heart and talmidei chachomim . . . and if
Hashem does not help, he cannot overcome [the yetzer
hora] . . .
And I pray to Hashem . . . that no one will be lost, . . .
and that he will help us, as the chossid the author of
the Mesillas Yeshorim says (in chapters 2 and 3 and
elsewhere, and I will not quote him but summarize him), that
one should think carefully every day and every time, which is
the proper path that one should choose according to
circumstances, and what he should do, and then he should
evaluate his deeds to see if he is going in the right way,
and if he should correct his deeds or whatever, he should do
so right away.
And one should learn Mesillas Yeshorim several
And then one will go surely and Hashem will guard him from
being caught and sholom al Yisroel. (And there are
also sources in Shaar HaYir'oh, and in chapter 10 he
brings a Pesikta and Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer.
One should consult the original for the full source