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A Disagreement for the Sake of Heaven

Our Sages taught us in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 5, Mishnah 17): “Any disagreement which is for the sake of Heaven shall eventually endure and any disagreement which is not for the sake of Heaven shall eventually not endure. An example of a disagreement which is for the sake of Heaven is that of Hillel and Shammai; an example of a disagreement which is not for the sake of Heaven is that of Korach and his followers.” We must try and understand the examples Tanna provides of “a disagreement which is for the sake of Heaven is that of Hillel and Shammai” and “a disagreement which is not for the sake of Heaven is that of Korach and his followers.” There were many other disagreements and disputes throughout history, both for and not for the sake of Heaven. Why then does Tanna use these specific examples? Hagaon Rabbeinu Yehonatan Eibeschitz explains this idea in his Sefer Ya’arot Devash (Volume 2) and writes that when it comes to any disagreement, the Evil Inclination persuades those involved to believe that this disagreement is surely for the sake of Heaven, as it was in the generation of Hagaon Harav Yehonatan Eibeschitz. However, our Sages gave us the sign to determine if it is genuinely for the sake of Heaven which is if it is similar to the disagreements of Hillel and Shammai, for these two schools of thought were constantly in disagreement about halachic matters but they nevertheless remained friendly and beloved to one another, as our Sages (Kiddushin 30b) taught that even when a father and son or a rabbi and his student delve in Torah and disagree about the interpretation of Halacha, they become like enemies to one another, as the verse states, “Thus, it is said in the book of the wars of Hashem”; however, they do not move from there until they once again love one another. Indeed, our Sages tell us (Yevamot 14b) that although the students of Shammai and Hillel disagreed about an extremely severe law regarding the Mitzvah of Yibum (levirate marriage), the students of Hillel nevertheless did not stop marrying the daughters of the students of Shammai in order to teach us that they still treated each other with endearment and camaraderie, as the verse states, “And love truth and peace.” This is because the students of Shammai would notify the students of Hillel if the family of the woman they wished to marry was of valid lineage even according to the standards of Bet Hillel. On the other hand, regarding the dispute of Korach and his followers where they were all filled with hatred and anger, such a disagreement is not for the sake of Heaven. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes, as follows: “This is the true sign to determine whether any disagreement is for the sake of Heaven or not.” All of the above applies to disagreement between the luminaries and leading Torah scholars of the generation. However, disagreements between Torah scholars and those who seek to destroy and uproot the Jewish religion by causing strife and confusion among the Jewish nation are certainly not included in the above types of disagreements and are actually considered to strengthen the religion, for our leaders must sometimes notify us whom to be careful of and who to stay away from.


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