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9 Shevat 5765 - January 19, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
"The study of Mesillas Yeshorim Prevents Dissension"

by Rav Eliezer Rivlin

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 Yisroel.

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 A historical document from Hatzaddik R' Yosef Zundel of Salant.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. 34)


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 world?

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 other Jew.

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. Moshe Rabbenu.]

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 and there.

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 ceases."

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 imagines.

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 41b).

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 your neck."

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 vesholom.

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 times.

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 material.)

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