Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shavuos - like one man with one heart

Har Sinai
The passuk says in Parshas Yisro:
וַיִּסְעוּ מֵרְפִידִים וַיָּבֹאוּ מִדְבַּר סִינַי וַיַּחֲנוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר וַיִּחַן שָׁם יִשְׂרָאֵל נֶגֶד הָהָר
And they traveled from Rephidim and they came to the desert of Sinai and they camped in the desert and Yisroel camped opposite mountain.”
Rashi comments on this passuk:
"ויחן שם ישראל" - כאיש אחד בלב אחד אבל שאר כל החניות בתרעומות ובמחלוקת (מכילתא)
And Yisroel camped there - (this is written in the singular, to teach you that they camped) like one man with one heart, but all the other encampments were with complaints and argument.”
·         Why does Rashi say כאיש אחד בלב אחד like one man with one heart, why does Rashi not just say like one man?
·         Why was the only camp where there was no machlokess the encampment at Har Sinai?

Machlokess le'shem shamayim
The mishna says in Pirkei Avos (5:17):
כל מחלוקת שהיא לשם שמים, סופה להתקיים ושאינה לשם שמים, אין סופה להתקיים. איזו היא מחלוקת שהיא לשם שמים, זו מחלוקת הלל ושמאי. ושאינה לשם שמים, זו מחלוקת קרח וכל עדתו
“Every machlokess which is leshem shamayim will endure and any machlokess which is not le’shem shamayim will not endure. What is an example of a machlokess which is le’shem shamayim?  This is the machlokess between Shamai and Hillel. What is an example of a machlokess which is not le’shem shamayim? This is the machlokess of Korach and his congregation.”

Why is it good for a machlokess le’shem shamayim to endure? Surely it would be better for the machlokess to be resolved?

Dovid and Achitophel
The mishna says in Pirkei Avos (6:3):
הלומד מחברו פרק אחד או הלכה אחת או פסוק אחד או דבור אחד או אפילו אות אחת, צריך לנהוג בו כבוד. שכן מצינו בדוד מלך ישראל, שלא למד מאחיתופל אלא שני דברים בלבד,קראו רבו אלופו ומיודעו, שנאמר: "ואתה אנוש כערכי אלופי ומידעי". והלא דברים קל וחומר, ומה דוד מלך ישראל שלא למד מאחיתופל אלא שני דברים בלבד קראו רבו אלופו ומידעו,הלומד מחברו פרק אחד או הלכה אחת או פסוק אחד או דיבור אחד או אפילו אות אחת,על אחת כמה וכמה שצריך לנהוג בו כבוד
“Someone who learns from his friend one chapter or one halacha or one passuk or one word or even one letter has to respect him. For this is what we find with Dovid Hamelech, he only learnt two halachos from Achitophel and so called him his master, his leader and his teacher as it  says, ‘And you are a man like me, my leader and my teacher.’ Is it not a kal va’chomer, if Dovid HaMelech who only learnt two halachos from Achitophel called him his master, his leader and his teacher, someone who learns from his friend one perek or one halacha or one passuk or one word or even one letter, all the more so that he has to respect him.”

Rb Chaim Volozhin z”l (Ruach Chaim) asks as follows;
Dovid HaMelech learnt two halachos from Achitophel. If so, how can the mishna make a kal va’chomer that if you learn even one letter from someone else you have to respect them? We have a general rule that “dayo lavo min ha’din li’heyos ka’nidan” – You can only learn from the kal va’chomer as much as we proved in the source of the kal va’chomer? You can only derive from the story with Dovid HaMelech that if you learn two halachos from someone then you have to respect them. How can you learn from here that you have to respect someone who taught you even one letter?

Rb Chaim Volozhin answers as follows;

600,000 letters
The Vilna Gaon explains that every part of the Torah can be understood through any other part of the Torah. If you understand the full depth of any  part of the Torah you will find that it includes the entire Torah. The Gaon compares this to a diamond with 613 facets, the whole brilliance of the diamond can be seen through any facet of the diamond.

There are 600,000 letters in the Torah and 600,000 neshomos who received the Torah at Har Sinai. Just as the entire Torah can be understood from the perspective of any of the letters of the Torah, so too each person has their own perspective and their own unique understanding of the Torah through which you can perceive the whole Torah. Hence, if you learn even one letter from someone else, this allows you to perceive their perspective on the Torah and to gain a completely new understanding of all parts of the Torah.

This only applies to someone who is connected to the root of their neshama, that is, someone who has a chelek in olam habah. The gemara in Sanhedrin (90a) however enumerates Achitophel as one of the people who does not have any chelek in olam habah, in other words, he was entirely seperated from the root of his neshama. It was therefore not possible for Dovid HaMelech to understand the whole Torah based on the halachos that he learnt from Achitophel had been cut off from the light of the letter that represented the root of his neshama.

Consequently we can read the mishna’s kal va’chomer as follows;
If Dovid Ha’Melech, who learnt two halachos from Achitophel which he could not extrapolate from, nevertheless respected Achitophel, then all the more so, someone who learns even one letter from his friend who is connected to the root of his neshama is obligated to respect him because, through the connection to the source of his neshama that he gains from this knowledge he is able to gain a new understanding of and  a new perspective on the entire Torah.

Machlokess le’shem shamayim
Not only were both perspectives of Hillel and Shamai entirely correct (as the gemara says, the talmidim of Hillel and Shamai would respect the halachos that had been decided by the batei din of Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel respectively) but the halachos of Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel were not to be understood by themselves. The gemara says that the reason that the halacha was decided according to Beis Hillel is because when they learnt they would first say the halacha according to Beis Shamai and then explain the halacha according to themselves. Just as the full brilliance of a diamond can only be seen by considering the entire diamond, so too each perspective on the Torah both pushes away but also simultaeneously illuminates all other perspectives of the Torah.

The machlokess of Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel is niskayem because together, they illuminate the words of the Torah. The halacha is like Beis Hillel, however, because practically we have to decided like one of the approaches.

Har Sinai
Every person in klal yisroel has their own way of perceiving the Torah and a different way in avodas hashem. These unique perspectives can only combine when klal yisroel all aim for the same goal, becuase otherwise the different perspectives can cause machlokess shelo le'shem shamayim. At Har Sinai klal yisroel become keish echad belev echad, like one man with one heart, because they all focused on serving Hashem. Because klal yisroel had a lev echad - one willl to serve Hashem, they combined and became keish echad - vayichan sham yisroel keneged ha'har.

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