In a famous lecture on teaching Chumash, Rav Aharon Kotler showed that
it is erroneous to see the stories of the Torah as illustrating personality
conflicts. One of the prime examples is the conflict between the Matriarchs
regarding children. To see Rochel and Leah as `jealous' of each other in
a personality conflict, is a simple mistake. Rochel had sacrificed everything
for her sister, by helping her to marry Yaakov first. It was quite possible
that Yaakov would not want to marry Rochel when he found out the truth.
Their zeal in bearing children had nothing to do with jealousy.
People get excited about controversy and scandal. We have heard much
about the controversy between the Chasidim and their opposition, the
`Misnagdim.' Rav Berel Wein explained that the leaders of both sides were
holy, great men. It was followers who fanned the flames of controversy.
A remarkable story is related by Rav Mordechai Epstein in Maaseh Rav
Hechadash: The Vilna Gaon had put his signature to the ban on the Chasidim.
Someone came to relate certain information about the Chasidim. The Vilna
Gaon was angry, and silenced the man. He showed from the Talmud the importance
of speaking pure, clean words. Maaseh Rav Hechadash concludes that the
Gaon's actions had been for the sake of heaven, and that he felt he had no
choice. In our age this seems incredible. The Gaon felt so strongly that
he put the movement into Cherem (ban), yet refused to hear anything derogatory
about the people he had banned!
In Rav Moshe Sternbuch's commentary to the above, the point is made that
the argument between the Chasidim and Misnagdim cannot be understood today;
most of the source information is from heretics... See there at length various
sources showing the agreement between the two movements.
Maharil Diskin said that the real war must be against assimilation; anyone
waging another war should be suspected of heretical leanings...
It is interesting to note the following. One of the immortal Chasidic
works is the Yismach Moshe, by Rav Moshe Teitelbaum, who began one of the
great Chasidic dynasties. At a young age, he headed for Vilna, to meet the
Gaon. It was a long, difficult journey from Hungary to Lithuania -- especially
for a mere child! Eventually, he was fortunate to speak with the Gaon, and
was even invited to his Shabbos table... Moshe asked the Gaon if he could
remain in Vilna and become a disciple of the Gaon. To his surprise, the Gaon
told him gently to return to Hungary, where he would someday be needed...
(This story is told in the biography of the Vilna Gaon by Rav Menachm Gerlitz.)
Although initially a Misnagid, Rav Moshe became one of the primary students
of the Chozeh of Lublin. Eventually, he became the Rebbe of Ohel, and was
a close friend of the Chasom Sofer... Anyone who checks the biography mentioned
will see that this story was presented in praise of the Vilna Gaon, who had
the foresight to recognize that the young genius before him would indeed
be a great leader in Hungary...
Of course, there are differences in personality, but the Torah teaches
us to overcome such obstacles...
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein Kollel of Kiryas Radin 11 Kiryas
Radin Spring Valley, NY 10977 Phone: (914) 362-5156 E-mail: