Last week, we mentioned that the Torah wanted each person to be a judge
over his own actions. The idea came from Rav Yerucham Halevi. The
same idea is quoted in Shimusha Shel Torah in the name of Rav Yisrael
The story is told there of a student who needed to leave his studies in
order to pursue an occupation. His Rebbe told him something startling
-- it is much easier to remain in Yeshiva than to enter the business
world. It is necessary to know the entire Shulchan Aruch in order to
avoid harming another person.
The "real world" requires honing one's studies. Rav Yerucham Halevi
knew a Rabbi who had studied the legal codes, but, when asked a
question, could never find an answer in the Shulchan Aruch. How does
such a situation occur? The study was not thorough enough to be
applicable, but was utterly external.
So, too, we find students who do not see the Torah discussing human
dignity. How can this be, cried Rav Yerucham. "Kavod habrios docheh
lo sa'asei she'b'torah" -- honor of fellow man pushes aside a
prohibition. "Meis Mitzva docheh afilu kum asei" -- The mitzva of
burying an unattended corpse overrides an obligation. Now, this is
talking about a dead body. If we have to be so concerned for the
contempt of a dead body, how much more so for the living!
The learning of such students is external -- they have missed the
point. The entire Torah is Musar -- ethical conduct. (See Da'as
Torah, Parshas Mishpatim)
Rav Shachna Zohn, shlita, notes that people have a fundamental
misunderstanding regarding the concept of an Adom Gadol (a person great
in Torah knowledge). Many think that someone who has mastered many
books, and can argue brilliant constructions, is the great authority to
approach. This, however, is far from the truth. The Adom Gadol is the
Torah Scholar who has mastered human character. (Kuntres Kavod Torah,
Experience bears this out. The Gadolim are the people of refined
spirit, whose pure character leads them towards the truth. Brilliant
scholars may say beautiful commentaries and expositions -- but without
the refined character, the underlying veracity of their statements
The verse states (Shmos 23:5) "When you see a donkey which belongs to
someone whom you hate, struggling beneath its burden... you shall
surely help him." The Talmud in Pesachim (113b) queries: How can we
be dealing with "someone you hate?" The Torah has not permitted
hatred! It must be dealing with a case when you saw the person perform
a perverse, illegal act (but cannot testify against him, because the
Torah requires two witnesses). In such a case, the hatred is
The commentary Tosafos questions further: In tractate Baba Metzia
(32b) we are taught that helping the animal of your enemy takes
precedence over your friend's animal -- "in order for you to overcome
your natural inclination." If, however, you have a legitimate reason
to hate him, what is the "overcoming of your natural inclination?"
Tosafos concludes that one's hatred naturally draws other people to
share this hatred. Therefore, the Torah has warned us to overcome the
natural inclination. The fact that you know something improper about
another person, does not allow you to needlessly spread ill-will. You
must rush to help the person whom you legitimately dislike.
Chasom Sofer quotes an interesting explanation. Rebbi Yochanan said
that the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of needless hatred.
Elsewhere, however, the same Rebbi Yochanan said that the Beis
Hamikdash was destroyed because they did not extend themselves beyond
the strict letter of the law.
The solution is provided by yet another quote of the same teacher,
Rebbi Yochanan. There was a well-know incident concerning two enemies
(the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza). The Rabbis who were present at
the time of the dispute, did nothing to intervene (in order to prevent
the embarrassment of one of the parties).
We surmise they did not intervene because they figured that there was a
legitimate reason for the hatred between the two men. However, Tosafos
has taught that, even though there is a legitimate reason for hatred,
nonetheless, one may not hold back from performing a public kindness to
the one hated.
Thus, the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of needless hatred.
Although it was legitimate, had the Rabbis acted beyond the letter of
the law, they would have done as Tosafos prescribed, and insisted that
the two parties act in a civil manner.