Positive Controversy

“Every controversy that is in the Name of Heaven shall in the end lead to a permanent result, but every controversy that is not in the Name of Heaven shall not lead to a permanent result. Which controversy was that which was in the Name of Heaven? Such was the controversy of Hillel and Shammai. And that which was not in the Name of Heaven? Such was the controversy of Korah and all his company.”

  • Pirkei Avos 5:20


After the incident of the spies, whereof the people were demoralized by the ill report of the land, H’Shem decreed that generation would wander in the desert for a total of forty years. The people were none too happy about this consequence of their lack of faith; plus, there was further discontent sown by Korach, who took advantage of their general malaise, in order to foment an outright rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Yet, Moses was clear about the implications of Korach’s agitation, “you and all your company are gathered against the L-RD” (Numbers 16:11).


Although the intentions of Korach were to take the position of Kohein Gadol for himself, only the rightfully chosen persons are placed in their position of leadership by H’Shem.”The L-RD will show who are His, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near to him; him whom He has chosen will cause to come near to him” (Numbers 16:5). Both Moses and Aaron, as well as the Levites were chosen by H’Shem for their respective positions. When Korach disputed their authority, he was challenging G-d’s authority.


Only “controversy” in the Name of Heaven, i.e., discussion for the sake of reaching a greater understanding of G-d, scripture, and prophecy, will flourish because the means to a common goal is justified by the intent of the participants to further their own appreciation of heavenly things, from a godly perspective. As one mind may benefit from another, because of the heightened level of discernment attained as a result of the combined effort.

A Balanced Perspective

parashas Beha’alotecha 5781

Moses was shown the shown pattern for the menorah (seven branched candlestick) that was to be made for the Mishkan (Sanctuary). He received a vision of the heavenly menorah, as if made of light. “The Holy One, blessed be He, showed him the pattern of it in a candlestick of fire (Rashi, Menachot 29a; sefaria.org). “And see that thou make them after their pattern, which is being shown thee on the mount” (Exodus 25:40, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Symbolically, many meanings may be drawn out from the menorah. One such explanation is given by Sforno, who comments, “that only by the ‘right’ side representing preoccupation with eternal values, life in the future, working together with the ‘left’ side which represents the concerns with physical life on our planet, will we be able to attain our purpose on earth” (Sforno on Numbers 8:2, sefaria.org).


This is a timely message, for the implied essence of the teaching is that there needs to be a balance between ruchniyos (spirituality), and gashmiyos (materiality). If humankind is compelled to only focus on materialistic concerns, without giving heed to the Creator, then there is a clear imbalance in values, that will eventually lead to dystopia. Yet, G-d has given us hope, in order to transcend the mundane, even while recognizing the inherent value in leading a godly life on earth. If we continue to cast our eyes towards Him, we will succeed with our endeavors.


“I am ever mindful of the L-RD’s presence” (Psalms 16:8). Those who are already led astray by the deceits of socialism, have fallen prey to an ideology that will not produce fruit. Rather, through pursuing righteousness, blessings will abound, both in this world and the next. “And He will do thee good” (Deuteronomy 30:5, JPS 1917 Tanach). “G-d will redeem my soul from the power of the nether-world; for He shall receive me. Selah” (Psalm 49:16, JPS).

Hear Ye, Hear Ye

B”H

“And he took the Book of the Covenant and read it within the hearing of the people, and they said, “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.”

– Exodus 24:7, Tanach, chabad.org

The crux of avodah (service) is built on faith, as is mentioned elsewhere, “the righteous shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4, JPS). When the children of Israel received the commandments at Sinai, they responded, na’aseh v’nishmah – we will do and we will hear. In other words, we will first agree to perform the commandments; then, we will hear from you of what they consist.

Nishmah also translates as “to understand;” therefore, “we will do, and we will understand.” Rather than having to scrutinize the commandments, to get an idea of what was being received, they inferred that over time they will progressively understand the significance of the commandments. Thus, rather than blind faith, in accepting the commandments, they knew that understanding is secondary, to performing the commandments.

These concepts are oft fallen upon deaf ears, so to speak, because of how we are conditioned to think. Today, everything is subjected to the ego of the individual, because we feel compelled to decide for ourselves, whether a teaching, belief, or idea, is in accordance with our way of understanding, before incorporating any aspect thereof, into our overall framework of belief, ideology, or lifestyle. Thus, everything is relative in a postmodern world, where each person is compelled to see him or herself, as the ultimate arbiter of truth, thus relegating truth to being relative, and therefore a moot issue.

Amongst many who consider themselves to be spiritual, one key precept seems to be “mix and match,” in order to create a personally tailored practice, in agreement with the soul’s desires as to what feels right. The result being akin to the nature of the Israelites when they were without a king: “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” A certain amount of objectivity, as well as agreement to the consensual realities of what creates a harmonious society is necessary. No man is an island unto himself, unless he deserts his fellow human beings, choosing a subjective reality, while remaining isolated in his own personal kingdom. This is not the way prescribed for us by H’Shem (the L-RD), the ultimate arbiter of truth, values, and justice.

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