Tuesday, Jun 11, 2024

Easy Does It

I heard an amazing story last week which I feel obligated to share with you. It is not Pesach-related per se, but its message resonates at times when people are tense such as during the pre-Yom Tov frenzy and other periods of the year. There was a certain rosh yeshiva who did something which upset Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach. For several days, Rav Shach was beside himself, wondering how such a great man could err the way Rav Shach perceived he had. Although he was ninety years old and weak, he decided that he had to go discuss the matter with the rosh yeshiva. Rav Shach summoned a close talmid to accompany him on the trip to Yerushalayim. Rav Shach was very agitated and was looking forward to putting the matter to rest.

When Rav Shach and his talmid arrived at the home of the rosh yeshiva, the rebbetzin answered the door. She was so proud that Rav Shach came to visit them in their home that she ushered him into the dining room and sat down to bask in the glory of the moment. Rav Shach began his conversation with the rosh yeshiva with the usual small talk and then launched into an intense Torah discussion. As the rebbetzin and the talmid sat there observing, the two Torah giants reveled in a long, wide-ranging Talmudic discussion. Finally, with the hour getting late, Rav Shach told his host that he had to return to Bnei Brak. He bid him farewell and returned to the car for the ride back.


The talmid, bewildered, turned to Rav Shach. “Rebbi,” he said, “I thought you came to discuss your displeasure with the rosh yeshiva. Instead, you just sat there for an hour speaking in learning. What happened? Why did you change your mind?”


Rav Shach didn’t respond.


For the next couple of days, Rav Shach was still upset, wondering how that rosh yeshiva could have acted in a way that he thought was incorrect. Finally, he called his talmid and said that he couldn’t calm down and that he must go meet that rosh yeshiva again.


Rav Shach and his talmid got into the car, and the aged gadol hador and his young talmid headed towards Yerushalayim. Once again, upon arriving at the home of the rosh yeshiva, the rebbetzin greeted them at the door. She was again so honored by the visit of the prestigious guest that she joined the two venerable roshei yeshivos in the dining room and sat at the table to watch them speak.


Just like during the previous visit, Rav Shach launched into a deep Talmudic discussion with the rosh yeshiva. Once again, they had a long conversation, plumbing the depths of Torah. Finally, Rav Shach told his host that it was time to return to Bnei Brak. He left with the aid of his talmid and got back into the car.


Now it was the talmid who was beside himself. With the greatest derech eretz, he said something along the lines of, “Rebbi, this was the second time we came here. You were so upset, you couldn’t be calmed down, so we returned here. But once again, the rosh yeshiva didn’t bring up the topic that so concerned you. Once again, you sat there for an hour speaking in learning. Please explain to me why.”


Rav Shach, worn out from the expedition, turned to him and said, “Men tor nit mevazeh zein a mann far zein froi – One may not embarrass a husband in front of his wife. I could not say anything to him in the presence of his wife.”


Here was the gadol hador, old and weak, having taken a trip two times to have a conversation with someone about a topic he felt was of utmost importance, yet he preferred to leave the issue alone, rather than perhaps cause the wife, after several decades of marriage, to look askance at her husband over a specific issue. “Men tor nit mevazeh zein a mann far zein froi.”


There are so many lessons to be learned in this story. Sometimes we are so convinced that we are right about our opinions that we don’t care how many people we embarrass in order to make our point. In the pursuit of justice, we consider ourselves justified to humiliate and publicly berate people who we think have acted improperly.


With the tension of preparing for Yom Tov virtually palpable, we get caught up in the heat of the moment and can possibly act improperly toward our spouses, children, co-workers, chavrusos and friends.


It is said that Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchov would wonder how it could be that Moshiach doesn’t come after Jews invest so much time, energy and recourses into preparing to observe the mitzvos and yom tov of Pesach.


He concluded that the accompanying tension that overtakes people as they prepare for the chag prevents the zechusim of so many mitzvos and so much tircha from bringing the arrival of Moshiach.


As we go about our Yom Tov preparations and we feel the pressure mounting, let us remember this story as we deal with the people around us. Remaining calm and not acting rashly will not only help you and everyone around you, it can even help bring Moshiach.



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