Is someone in a machlokes (dispute) with another family member allowed to rally other family members to join his or her side? Does it make a difference if the mitzvah of kibud av va’eim is involved?
Although relevant always, shalom is particularly relevant at this time of year since “any generation that did not experience the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash is considered to have destroyed it (Yerushalmi, Yoma 1:1; Yalkut Shimoni, Tehillim 886). Furthermore, the second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam (Yoma 9b).
Yet, how can we achieve global shalom and ahavah when so many family units are torn apart by machlokes? Years ago, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlit”a, in a conversation with me, bemoaned how prevalent family discord is in Klal Yisrael.
The Shulchan Aruch states clearly, “If a father commands his son not to talk with someone and not to forgive him until a particular date, the son should not be concerned with the command if he wants to have a connection immediately and the command is his only reservation” (Yorah De’ah 240:16).
The Taz and Shach explain that a person may not comply with the wishes of others, even parents, when they violate halacha (Yoreh De’ah 240:15), and we know that it is forbidden to have sinah for anyone in Klal Yisrael.
Yes, there are evil people. There are exceptions. People must seek halachic counsel if they are dealing with exceptions. But the general rule is straightforward in Shulchan Aruch. A family member may have a machlokes, but the circle of strife need not expand. To the contrary, every effort should be exerted to bring shalom.
We know that when Moshe sought to squelch the rebellion of Korach, he went to Dasan and Aviram. Why? Because they were the source of evil. If not for them, he could have influenced everyone to do teshuvah (Ohr HaChaim on Bamidbar 26:9).
We also know that “the children of Korach did not die” (Bamidbar 26:11). At the last minute, they did teshuvah. This teshuvah came about in the following way: As Moshe was walking toward Dasan and Aviram, the sons of Korach saw him pass by and were in a quandary. If they stood for Moshe, it would be disrespectful to their father. On the other hand, they knew that revering Torah scholars is mandatory and surely Moshe was a Torah giant. So they decided to stand and, at that moment, they felt remorse for taking part in the rebellion.
In contrast to the evil Dasan and Aviram, Korach and his children were righteous. None of them had been involved in a machlokes before and, thanks to the education and training they had received from their father, Korach’s sons were able to extricate themselves from the conflict (Oznayim LaTorah).
Some take the attitude of: “If I’m angry with someone, the whole family should stand by my side and join the machlokes.” Even if it is totally irrelevant to the others, you hear the battle cry: “We’re all in it together, and we expect your allegiance!”
The sons of Korach struggled. On one hand, they felt loyalty to their family. But on the other hand was the truth. And because they did teshuvah and were not swallowed up with the rebels, they merited to have Shmuel as a descendant. They and all Klal Yisrael benefited for eternity because they made a decision not to be ensnared in discord.
When machlokes brews, things get heated and emotions get out of control. We are fortunate to have a Shulchan Aruch as our guide. If someone demands loyalty and insists that others join in machlokes to support his or her cause, we must indeed remain loyal – to the Shulchan Aruch, remaining caring, understanding, and strong at the same time.
“Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel stated: Whoever brings peace to his household is considered to have brought peace to each and every individual in Israel” (Avos D’Rebbe Nassan 28:3). Why? Because every member of the household will learn that shalom is a priority. Each one, in turn, will then apply the principles of shalom in his or her family and circle. Thus, the circle will expand to all Klal Yisrael, with the starting point having been a single home (Binyan Yehoshua).
Let’s take the lessons of ahavas Yisrael from theory to practice. Bringing peace to one family strengthens us all!