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April 2, 2015 / 13 Nisan, 5775
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Harmony And Unity


Tales of the Gaonim-logo

The Gaon, Rav Yisrael Hopstein, known as the Maggid of Koznice, was the prototype of Aharon HaKohen. He loved peace. When the dispute arose between the Chassidim and the Misnagdim he refused to participate in it. When asked to help the cause of the Chassidim, he replied: “Not through quarrels or excommunications can Chassidim hope to win, but only through showing their strength in the study of Torah, prayers, observing mitzvos and doing the work of Hashem.”

He would also say, “It is better to have an insincere peace than a sincere quarrel.” “If all Israel made peace with each other,” he said, “and if they gave a hand to each other and helped each other in true, sincere love, their strength would be so powerful that it would reach to the very throne of Hashem.”

No Separate Minyan

In one of the congregations near Koznice, a dispute arose between the Chassidim and the other members of the shul. Out of anger, the Chassidim, who were in the minority, decided to resign from the congregation and establish their own shul. When Rav Yisrael heard of this he became very aggravated and he summoned them to his home. He urged them to reconsider and return to their former congregation.

“There are terrible sins which the Torah warns against, such as idolatry, murder, and adultery,” said Rav Yisrael. “The Torah itemizes the various punishments that will accrue to one who commits these sins. But nowhere does the Torah specifically state that we should separate ourselves from these sins. Except in one place where it describes the dispute of Korach who quarreled with Moshe. There the Torah says (Devarim 16:21): ‘Separate yourselves from among this congregation that I may consume them…’ Thus we learn that quarreling is more dangerous than any other sin and we should avoid any person who quarrels.”

Thus did the Gaon try with all his power to keep the peace in his community.

The Forgotten People

Once a poor woman came to Rav Yisrael and cried, “Holy rav, please help me. My husband hates me and he doesn’t want to live with me anymore. He thinks I am ugly and a boor and now in my old age where can I go? Who will support me?”

“When he married me many years ago, he raved about my beauty and he whispered beautiful things in my ear. All through the years I worked very hard for him, I cooked, washed his clothes and raised his children and now as my reward he want to divorce me because he thinks I am old and ugly.”

Rav Yisrael summoned the husband to his study and asked him, “Is it true what your wife tells me?”

“It is true,” he answered, “what can I do if she disgusts me?”

Rav Yisrael said, “The din is with your wife. You cannot divorce her and you are required to support her all of her days.

Then turning to the heavens he cried out, “Lord of the Universe! Our lot is similar to this woman. We also come before You with an argument, for a din Torah.

“When You took us out of Mitzrayim and we stood at Har Sinai, we became Your chosen people. When You wed us at Har Sinai and we became Your beloved, You promised us everything – this world and the next world. We followed You for over two thousand years in fire and water. We gave up our lives for Your Holy Name – al Kiddush Hashem. The names of our ancestors are inscribed in blood in every generation.

“And now that we have grown old as a nation and as a people, You have forgotten us and want to throw us out. You turn us over to a terrible people to kill and murder us. You have no pity on us. Is that right?

“Therefore, O G-d, Lord of the Universe, just as I have awarded this case to this woman, please award us with Your kindness and return us again to Your good grace and show us Your loving kindness as or yore.”

The husband was so overawed with these powerful words uttered by the Rav Yisrael that he turned to his wife and embraced her and asked for her forgiveness.

May we merit to have our Father in Heaven forgive us and once again shine His beloved kindness upon us.

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But the words would penetrate their hearts and each would say to himself: “But I, too, am doing this terrible thing.” In this way Reb Elimelech would inspire the people to teshuvah.

“I will tell you,” replied the rav. “I am very puzzled at why you suddenly desire to honor me and have me as your guest. What quality do you find in me that is new and worthy of merit?

“I wanted you to have a taste of the cold,” answered Rav Chaim. “This way, you too can feel the intense cold and realize the suffering of this man and his wife, who are now residing in a bitterly cold house.”

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The arguments, however, could never appease his wife and one Thursday she came to him for money to purchase food for Shabbos.

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