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Parshas Vayeitzei 5758 - '97

Outline Vol. 2, # 6

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein


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

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '97 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.



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