Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nothing Personal

Rav Shach, zt”l, once related: “It’s interesting to note that the Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, only brings a contemporary Gadol in his Mishnah Berurah a single time. In hilchos Rosh HaShanah, he writes that it is correct to blow the shofar out of the right side of one’s mouth. In the Biur Halachah, he cites Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, zt”l, who refers to Rosh HaShanah 34 to provide an explanation. There, we extrapolate some halachos of the shofar from the laws of chatzosros. He adds that since the verse says clearly that when they blew the chatzosros milchamah during Gidon’s war, they held the torches in their left hands and their shofaros in their right, we see that they blew from the right side.”

Rav Shach continued, “The truth is that the Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, did not bring a halachah from a contemporary Gadol, only a reason for a custom. But it remains curious why he cites the Ohr Someach and no one else? My theory was always that it had to do with a certain argument that existed between the two Torah giants. The Chofetz Chaim held that even if the government threatens to shut down a yeshiva, it must refuse to incorporate secular studies into its schedule. The Ohr Someach, on the other hand, held that it is more important for the yeshivos to stay open, and they should therefore teach the secular subjects. The Chofetz Chaim and Rav Meir Simchah had a number of heated exchanges about the matter. I always felt that the citation was a peace-offering from the Chofetz Chaim toward Rav Meir Simchah.”

Rav Shach conluded, “Even though this was just my own theory, I always felt certain that I was correct. I once met Rav Mendel Zaks, zt”l, the son-in-law of the Chofetz Chaim and presented it to him. He affirmed that this indeed had been the Chofetz Chaim’s intention, and he had even told this to the group of baal habatim with whom he learned the Mishnah Berurah in Radin. We must learn from our gedolim how to convey to those whom we may have insulted that we didn’t mean anything personal. Even if we did it l’shem Shomayim!

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