Wednesday, Sep 21, 2022

Chagigah 25: The Virtues of the Ignorant

This daf discusses which halachos we believe an am ha’aretz about.

During the war between France and Austria which began in 1809, the Chasam Sofer was suspected of espionage and forced to flee Pressburg. Once, he stayed at the home of a very generous but ignorant man. It was something of a shock to the Chasam Sofer when he heard his host slander him for no reason that he could fathom.

At the soonest opportunity, the Chasam Sofer took his host aside and asked why he had spoken against him. He was shocked by the man’s reply. “Shouldn’t I speak against a guest staying at my home who blatantly disregards halacha?” the man bluntly replied. “I saw with my own eyes how you skipped Kiddush on Shabbos morning, saying only borei pri hagafen on a cup of wine. You also sat during Kiddush. I may be simple, but I am G-d-fearing and cannot abide by people who disregard halacha.”

The Chasam Sofer patiently explained his host’s error to him until he finally comprehended that it was he who was in the wrong. Not surprisingly, he apologized to the Chasam Sofer and stopped speaking against him.

Much later, when describing this experience, the Chasam Sofer commented. “I believe this man misunderstood and slandered me as punishment for my failing to obey the dictum of our sages that one should not live in the vicinity of an am ha’aretz.”

The Chasam Sofer added that there was also a positive outcome to this experience: “I was very pleased to see this man’s steadfastness, despite his lack of learning. Having noticed the climate of heresy gearing up in the world, I was worried about the future of Torah Judaism. Witnessing this man’s stubbornness was therefore very comforting. It was wonderful to find a simple person so determined to keep every detail of his understanding of halacha. Through people like him, Torah will continue undiluted!” (Divrei Torah, gilyon 279, p. 2).

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