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The Chofetz Chaim on Strife

The Midrash says: R. Berechia said: Strife is so destructive! The Heavenly court doesn't punish the living until the age twenty (Shabbos 89b); the Jewish courts onearth don't punish until thirteen. Yet in the dispute involving Korach, INFANTS were swallowed up into the abyss, as it is written, "... with the wives, children and infants... the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households... thay and all that was theirs descended alive to the pit." (Bamidbar 16:27, 32-33) The sages taught: Four are considered in the classification "rasha" (wicked) - one who raises his hand to strike his fellow, even if he doesn't hit him - one who borrows and doesn't pay back - a brazen person with no shame before those greater in stature than himself - one who engages in strife Regarding the latter, it is written, "Turn away from the tents of these wicked men [i.e. Korach and his group]" (ibid. v. 26)

In his last will and testament, the Rambam says: "Prophets prophesied and wise men spoke many words of wisdom regarding the wickedness of strife - and they did not plumb its full depth."

The Chofetz Chaim points out: There is something astonishing about those bent on strife. If their child is slightly injured by someone, even unintentionally, the father would castigate the culprit with fury. If the child were bedridden, the father would publicly castigate the perpetrator, even after the child recovered, and call the attacker cruel and violent. The father would continue until he dealt the guilty party a blow equal to his callous act. The man of strife would hate the person who harmed him eternally. But he doesn't consider the harm, even death, that his children may face, G-d forbid, because of his own sinful ways (see above midrash regarding Korach's infant children). His own wife, children and other relatives get involved in the strife. The Torah records, "Dasan and Aviram went out erect in at the entrance of their tents, with their wives, children and infants." (Bamidbat 16:27) Yirmiyahu 7:18 states - "The children gather the wood, but it is the fathers who ignite the fire." The evil inclination blinds these people and their beloved stumble into the abyss below. - From Sefer Shmiras Haloshon of the Chofetz Chaim (A lesson a Day, Days 71 & 77 - Artscroll Rabbis S. Berkowitz and R. Finkelman)


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