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Shabbat Parashat Balak 5772
Ein Ayah: The Sign of When to Stop Rebuking(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:93)
Gemara: Rava said [to the dream interpreter]: I saw [in my dream] two slices of turnip. He [the interpreter] said: “You will absorb two blows with a stick [whose head looked like a turnip]. Rava went and sat in the Beit Midrash all day. He found two blind men who were fighting with each other. Rava went to extricate them [from each other]. They hit Rava twice and raised their arms to hit him again. Rava said to them: “It is enough. I saw two.”
Ein Ayah: There is much to be learned from the dream imagery of a scholar of Rava’s level, who was focused on spiritual not material success. How could a revered, peace-loving man of such fine attributes find himself in a situation of being hit, and not by one person but by two enemies of each other?
The blows that someone of Rava’s stature “ingests” are like food for him. However, it is not very nutritionally laden “food” for the spirit but just “like vegetables.” The stick is thus reminiscent of slices of turnip. It has some value in that it gives experience to a person to distinguish between those things he would like to tell others that are likely to be accepted and those that will not. He thus learns when to give rebuke and guidance to others.
In any case, how did Rava, who, we are told, spent all day in the beit midrash, become subject to a beating? The story hints at the answer: the quarrelers were blind. Rava, with pure intentions, wanted to make peace between them. However, they, not being able to recognize him or the type of person he was, got angry at Rava for trying to stop their fight, which they were set on continuing, and thereby became enemies of Rava.
This serves as a parable for the common occurrence of people who have blind hearts, with each side seeing the truth only of his own extreme position. Since each is blind to a rational look at the truth, he hates anyone who wants to make peace between him and the one he opposes.
When the wise man sees that his attempt at peace-making is not being well-received, to the extent that the combatants are now hitting him, he decides to apply the rule that one should not say something that will not be accepted. That is why Rava said that two is enough. This message is particularly pertinent for someone like Rava, who, as a dayan and rabbinic leader in the city of
Therefore, the dream together with the occurrence impacted Rava. It is not intrinsically good for a scholar to remain silent when there is what to protest. However, silence may be necessary, and it also lends a special standing to those statements that the people can accept. Therefore, it is like vegetables, which do not provide all the nutrients one needs but can suffice in a place where there is no meat and fish.
Without a compelling event to teach him the lesson, it is hard for someone of a noble heart to remain passive when there is a conflict between “blind people,” where one feels that if they just realized that their blindness was the cause of the conflict, precious peace could have been achieved. However, experience shows that it is not always possible to prevent wrong things. Rava felt at the point that one halachic opinion states is limit of rebuking: until people come to hit the one who rebukes (see Arachin 16b). The point was brought home when both blind people, who Rava wanted to spare pain, wanted to hurt him. Then Rava realized that he had to overcome the feeling that pushed him to act.
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