The Orchos Tzaddikim (introduction) compares Torah scholars who aren't cautious with their speech to an old barrel with holes in it. Only a fool would pour wine into that barrel. If the wine is very expensive, he is an even greater fool, because everything will go to waste. He must first seal the hole and only then he can pour in the good wine. The nimshal is that if his mouth is sullied with lashon hara, how can he put Torah and mitzvos in there? They will get ruined and go to waste, just as a barrel with holes…
The Shav Shmatsa teaches that the oral Torah and the written Torah both have to be contained in a vessel. The vessel for the written Torah is parchment, and the vessel for the Oral Torah is the Jew's mouth, and therefore it must be kept holy and pure. The Shav Shmatsa writes, "Reb Shimon bar Yochai said, 'If I would be at Har Sinai, I would have asked for two mouths: one to study Torah with and one to speak worldly matters, because we see that people speak a lot of lashon hara.' … The mouth is the parchment for the oral Torah. Just as the parchment for the written Torah needs to be made lishmah, and it must be pure and not tamei, so too, the parchment of the oral Torah, which is the mouth, must be solely lishmah…" Together with sanctifying our mouths from speaking forbidden talk, we should use our mouth to do chessed and to encourage others.
The Yalkut Shimoni (218) teaches, "Our rabbis taught: the entire generation of Achav was idol worshipers, but no one spoke lashon hara, and therefore they won their wars. In David HaMelech’s generation, even young children knew Torah… but they went to war and lost, because there was lashon hara."
The Shevet Mussar (37:22) states that the manna fell almost every day in the desert, even on the day they made the gold calf. However, the manna didn’t fall on the day Korach made a dispute. This demonstrates that dispute is more severe than idol worship.
Machlokes and Gehinom were created on the second day of creation, which means they are synonymous. Therefore even young children die… because machlokes is united with the punishment."
The Rambam wrote his son the following letter: "Don’t contaminate your soul with dispute, which destroys body, soul, and money. I saw… families die, cities destroyed, groups disintegrate… the respected disgraced, all because of dispute. The prophets discuss how bad dispute is, and the Torah scholars added on more ideas, and they haven't yet reached its ultimate evil. Therefore, hate it; run away from it, keep away from all its friends, lest you will perish…"
Rebbe Shlomke of Zvhil zt'l said, "For sins that are ben adam lemakom, there is a vast Gehinom in heaven. For sins that are ben adam lechaveiro, people suffer in this world."
No one ever gained from dispute. Rashi (Bereishis 28:11) tells that the stones were fighting, as each stone wanted Yaakov to place his head on them. A miracle occurred, and all stones became one. We can ask, if a miracle took place, why couldn’t the stones turn into a comfortable soft cushion? The answer is, softness never emerges from a dispute…
Why was it necessary for Korach and his group to die with a new creation? We can explain that Hashem wanted everyone to remember the severity of dispute. If they would die a natural death, people would eventually forget, and the gravity of dispute wouldn’t penetrate our conscious as it does now. The unusual death reminds us of the severity of dispute . It states, "Korach's children didn’t die" (26:11). Rebbe Mendel of Riminov zt'l said that that can be translated to, Korach's students never died, because the approach of creating disputes has been passed down from generation to generation. The only solution is to pray that you never make a dispute. (The Ben Ish Chai and other holy books also discuss the need for one to pray to be saved from initiating a dispute.)
Instead of creating dispute, our goal should be to honor others. The Mishnah (Avos 2:1) states, "Who is honorable? Someone who honors others." There are those who think that they are honorable people, but they don’t respect others. This Mishnah contradicts them; if they don’t respect others, they don’t deserve honor.
Reb Eliyahu Dessler would use a small becher (Kiddush cup) for Kiddush (the size of Reb Chaim Noeh, and not the larger size cup of the Chazon Ish). When his wife passed away, he began using a larger cup. The family was curious why he changed the cup, and he told them that he received the small kiddush cup from his father-in-law as a present, and to honor his wife he used that cup for Kiddush. But now that she wasn't alive anymore, he preferred to use the larger cup for Kiddush… Likewise, it is told about a tzaddik from Teveria who removed a mirror from his dining room after his wife's demise. As long as she was alive he honored her desire, and let the mirror be there, though he didn’t like it. But now that she wasn't alive anymore, he removed it.
Shortly after Reb Moshe Feinstein zt'l passed away, a woman called up the Feinstein's home Friday afternoon, to ask when candle lighting time would be. Reb Moshe's son who answered the phone told her the time. The following Friday she called again, and Reb Moshe's son told her the time. When she called a third week, he told her the time, and added that she could buy a Jewish calendar with all the times, so she wouldn’t have to call every week. She replied, "I've been calling your father for years, every single Friday, and he never told me about that simple solution." This story shows us Reb Moshe's good character traits, who patiently answered this woman's simple question week after week, for years, without ever losing his patience.
Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt'l once put out his hand to say shalom aleichem to a certain prestigious person. That man's young daughter was there too, and she also put out her hand to Reb Shlomo Zalman. Reb Shlomo Zalman placed a piece of chocolate in her hand, thus cleverly avoided shaming a young girl. Once, Reb Shlomo Zalman was invited to be mesader kiddushin, and Reb Shlomo Zalman saw that one of the witnesses chosen to watch the marriage was not valid as a witness. Reb Shlomo Zalman asked that person to be mesader kiddushin, and he [Reb Shlomo Zalman] would be the witness. (This is permitted, since Reb Shlomo Zalman was there and was able to ascertain that the marriage was done according to halachah.) That was Reb Shlomo Zalman's clever plan to avoid embarrassing that person, by telling him that he wasn't kosher to be an witness.
When people disgraced Reb Shlomo Zalman about some halachic ruling he gave, his close students wanted to protest, but Reb Shlomo Zalman told them not to, explaining, "No one ever lost by being mevater."
The Divrei Yoel of Satmar zt'l would never tell people to leave the room. Instead, he would tell them to "go into the next room." For example, when he wanted his gabai to leave the room, he would tell him to go into the next room. Once, in Antwerp, women came to the beis medresh to hear his drashah, and to see the tzaddik. When he was leaving, the Rebbe wasn't able to pass, because there were many women blocking the way. The gabai shouted, "Women, go outside." The Rebbe corrected him, "It isn't proper to tell the holy nation to go out. Tell them to go into the ezras nashim."
Reb Chaim Palagi zt'l writes that in his dreams he saw a man who passed away a month before. This man, from Izmir, Turkey, was a wealthy person, and Reb Chaim Palagi saw him dressed in beautiful clothing and very joyous. Reb Chaim Palagi was surprised to see him in such a good state, and he asked him how he merited that. The man told him that it was because he didn’t work his maids and servants cruelly, only with mercy. Therefore he merited this reward. When someone asked the Chazon Ish zt'l to define, to learn Torah with the intention to do, he replied that this is "to know how not to harm any Jew, even with a slight word, even for just a moment."
A wise counsel to avoid dispute is to push it off for later. When one responds in the heat of the moment, one often regrets it. Therefore, it is wise to wait until tomorrow. Give yourself time to relax and to think things over well. There are many things to consider: (1) Is that person really guilty, as you think he is? (2) Does he deserve a dispute for that? (3) What will you lose/gain by creating a dispute? (4) What will be the outcome of this dispute be in the future? There's a lot of other thoughts to consider too, so it is wise to push off the dispute for a later time.
A valuable, crystal bottle broke in the home of Reb Efraim Zalman Margolis zt’l (the Matteh Efraim). His wife was hysterical, and she asked her great husband, "How can you be so serene? Do you realize how much money it costs?" Reb Efraim Zalman replied, "I can't answer you now, but ask me again in a year from now, and I will explain it to you." Exactly a year later she asked her husband for an explanation. He asked her, "Does it bother you now that the bottle broke?" She said that it doesn’t. He said, "Your father chose me to be your husband, because he wanted that you should marry an iluy (genius in Torah). An iluy grasps in a moment, what others need a year to comprehend. When that bottle broke, I looked ahead, and thought about how I would think of it in a year from now, and I realized that it wouldn’t bother me. Therefore, I didn’t let it bother me then either…"
For our subject, the lesson is when a dispute is brewing, think ahead, and ask how you will think about it in a year's time. Right now, you’re angry with someone, because you feel that he wronged you. But how will you feel about this in a year from now? Furthermore, if you decide to make a dispute, think about the results. How will it be in a year from now, due to the discord? Is that the situation you want? Think ahead and you will usually realize that it isn't worthwhile to create a dispute.
The Gemara (Chulin 58) discusses a baka, a fly that only lives for one day, and stings like a hornet. The Gemara asks on the assessment that the baka doesn’t even live for a day. The Gemara states, "People say that a female baka separated from her husband for seven years, saying to him, 'You found a fat person in Mechuzah who had just come out of the river wrapped in sheets. You landed on him and sucked his blood and you didn't tell me!" This saying of their time contradicts the assumption that the baka lives for less than a day. The Gemara replies that when people say that the wife separated for seven years, it means åäãéã éðùá, “in their years.” The baka only lives for a day, however, if one would compare the baka's short life to the lifespan of a human, the ratio of this baka bug's separation would be the equivalant of seven human years. The baalei mussar teach that this Gemara helps us acquire a truer perspective on time. When one sees baka bugs fighting, he thinks, isn't it a pity they’re fighting? Life is so short for them. They don’t even live for a day. Shouldn’t they make the most out of their short life? For human beings, life is longer, but it is also relatively short. Does it make sense to fill this short period of time with disputes and quarrels? Think about these matters, and avoid disputes.
Another remedy for dispute is simply to avoid them. Try not to get involved. The Imrei Noem told the following parable: A lion asked a sheep, "Smell my breath, and tell me how it is?" "Your breath smells terrible." "Where is your respect for the king of all animals?" and the lion devoured the sheep. Then the lion asked the wolf for his opinion. The wolf saw what happened to the sheep, so the wolf said, "My master, your breath smells lovely." "You are lying. How dare you lie to me," and the lion devoured the wolf as well. Then the king went to the fox, and said, "Smell my breath, and tell me how it is?" The fox pointed to his nose and said, "My master, my nose is stuffed. I can't smell anything." In this manner, the fox was saved. The Imrei Noam says that this is what one should do when a dispute is raging. Try to keep away, because getting involved in any way will only bring you trouble.
Another way to avoid dispute is to let the other party have their way.
On motzei Yom Kippur, Rebbe Ahron of Belz zy’a would make a Hamavdil Tisch (the meal following Yom Kippur). The rebbe wouldn’t bless his chassidim individually for a good year until after this tisch. (For the Belzer tzaddikim, each custom was sacred. It was almost unthinkable, for the Belzer Rebbe to do anything different than what he received as a tradition from his father.) One year, one of his chassidim received a telegram from his wife shortly after Yom Kippur, stating that she needed him at home immediately. The chassid didn’t know what to do. He wanted to wait until after the Hamavdil Tisch to receive a blessing from the Rebbe, but his wife needed him home. He asked the Rebbe's son, Reb Moshe, hy’d, for his opinion. (This story happened in Belz, Europe, when the Rebbe's son, Reb Moshe, was still alive.) Reb Moshe said, "In another moment, my father will be coming downstairs to begin the Hamavdil Tisch. Stand by the stairway, and when my father comes down, ask him directly." The chassid told the Rebbe about the telegram, and that he desires to receive the Rebbe's blessing before heading home. The Rebbe replied, half to himself and half to the chassid, "My father never wished people a good year before the Hamavdil Tish, but a Yid tor nisht ois firen" (which means that a Yid mustn't insist to always have his way). He repeated these two sides of his dilemma several times, and then he said, "but a Yid tor nisht ois firen," and he gave his hand, and wished him a good year. The Belzer Rebbe zt'l would often quote that phrase: a Yid tor nisht ois firen. If one would accept that attitude, he will be saved from many disputes. Even if someone does differently than you want, accept that. Not everything must be exactly your way.
We conclude our discussion with the Rambam (Dei'os 6:7) who teaches, "It is proper that a person should be mevater (give in), when it comes to matters related to this world, because to the wise, everything in this world is foolishness and not worth fighting over.
Satmar chassidim organized a special Shabbos together with their Rebbe, the Divrei Yoel of Satmar zt'l. A lot of planning, effort, and money were invested to make this Shabbos a success. But on Friday afternoon, the Rebbetzin wasn't feeling good, and she asked the Rebbe to remain home, and he obliged. He stayed home, and didn’t lead a tisch for his chassidim. After Shabbos, the gabai told the Rebbe that the chassidim were disappointed. "Why does she always get her way?" The Rebbe replied, "We've received a kabalah, tradition, that by shalom bayis, the one who is mivater is the menatzeiach (the one who gives in, is the winner)."