In last week’s parshah, Moshe Rabbeinu proposed an elaborate test with incense to determine if Korach and his assembly were right. But why didn’t he suggest using the mahn? We know that the mahn fell far from the homes of sinners. So why didn’t Moshe Rabbeinu simply say, “Let’s see in the morning if the mahn falls close or far from your homes?”
The Shevet Mussar answers that during the machlokes, the mahn didn’t fall. Why? Because of the axiom stated by the Shelah HaKodesh, “Machlokes achas docheh mei’ah parnasos – One fight can wreck a hundred livelihoods.” The fighting of Korach brought to a halt the livelihood – i.e., the mahn – of all of Bnei Yisrael.
I believe the lesson of this story is especially pertinent today. The number of livelihoods that have been ruined and successful business that have been destroyed due to this pandemic is staggering. We should therefore stop to consider if perhaps there is too much discord and fighting in our midst.
Destroyed livelihoods are not the only indicators that something is spiritually amiss. Our synagogues and study halls are considered mikdeshei me’at, mini Temples. We are taught that if “the Temple wasn’t rebuilt in a particular generation, it is considered to have been destroyed in that generation.” The Beis HaMikdash was destroyed due to sinas chinam, petty enmity and groundless dislike. Our shuls and yeshivos were closed for three months and, even now, we can only enter them with masks. Perhaps Hashem is telling us, “Things are not in order with your relationships.”
I’ve notice something interesting in recent weeks. Due to capacity and social-distancing rules, many people are now davening in different places alongside different individuals. It’s almost as if Hashem is telling us, “I want you to re-evaluate your behavior with your social circle.”
Moshe Rabbeinu used ketores to halt the plague. Rav Leibel Katz, zt”l, in his wonderful Sefer Ohel Aryeh, suggests that the ketores is an example of achdus. One of the 11 ingredients of the ketores was the foul-smelling chelb’na (galbanum). Its inclusion among the other, sweet-smelling ingredients teaches us the values of acceptance and achdus. This achdus found favor in Hashem’s eyes, bringing an end to a plague that arrived due to discord and lack of unity.
Since wearing masks and standing apart from one another does not easily lend itself to being friendly, we need to compensate by greeting each other heartily, spending extra time to inquire after each other’s welfare, and taking an interest in people outside our clique.
We especially need to take notice of those around us who could use some friendly attention. Remember, Pirkei Avos teaches us, “Kol she’ruach habrios nochah heimenu, ruach HaMakom nochah heimenu – If people are pleased with someone, Hashem is pleased with him.” The barometer – the litmus test of whether Hashem is happy with us – is how easy we are to get along with.
May we use this pandemic as a springboard to up our game in the social arena, and, in that merit, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.