Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Strong Words

Generally speaking, the sages were very careful not to speak in a sharp way even if they disagreed with their colleagues. When the Pri Chadash was first printed and reached the Jewish community in Egypt, the Chachamim there were amazed at the insight in the sefer. Despite their high regard for its scholarship, they placed a ban on it and didn’t allow anyone in their community to purchase it. What turned them against the sefer? The fact that when the Pri Chadash argued on the Beis Yosef, he adopted a patronizing tone!
When the Torah Temimah related this, he said, “One would think that the printers would have placed the Pri Chadash on the page in full like they did the Ketsos and Nesivos in Choshen Mishpat. I think the fact that it is only either found in an abbreviated form on the page or relegated to the back of the Shulchan Aruch is because that ban made an impact in heaven!”
However, Yevamos 9 is an example of the exception that proves the rule; when there was a valid reason, the sages could also be known to speak with great acerbity. Someone once asked the Chavas Yair, zt”l, “Why do we find in Yevamos 9a that Rebbi says that Rav Levi has no brain in his skull? Isn’t that a little harsh when all Levi did was ask why there are fifteen women who discharge their tzaros from yibum, and not sixteen?”
The Gadol responded, “This is where the Rambam learned that a Rav must show anger with his disciple if he feels that the student’s failure to understanding is due to a lack of diligence and care in his learning. Since Rebbi felt that his student was careless, showing anger was a means to goad him to be more diligent in the future.”
There could be other reasons for the occasional harsh word. For example, the Chasam Sofer, zt”l, also once blasted someone named Aharon Choriner publicly. This Aharon Choriner was a “progressive Rabbi” who had an agenda to weaken traditional observance in Hungary.
The Chasam Sofer pointed out, “I noticed that in the many petitions this man has submitted to the government, he signs his name: ‘Aharon Choriner, Rabbi.’ See for yourselves—the name and title bears the initials ‘Acher!’”

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