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Shabbat Parashat Lech Lecha| 5768
The Halachic Parameters of the Obligation to Avoid Conflict - Part II – Based on Chavot Binyamin, siman 76
[We saw last time some major sources on the concept of not acting differently than others. One relates to avoiding machloket while another is based on the pasuk of lo titgod’du (creating different factions) which Rashi explains as looking like there are two Torahs. We continue developing a thesis after skipping much detailed analysis of the sources.]
The amoraim [cited last time] actually argue regarding the reason that lo titgod’du is forbidden. According to Reish Lakish, it is because it appears as if there are two Torahs. Therefore, it is problematic if different cities read the megilla on different days. Although people in different places do not have the same concerns about conflict, those who observe a variety of practices could think there are “two Torahs.” His question is why the Rabbis would create such a phenomenon. The gemara (Pesachim 55a) tries to reconcile an apparent contradiction on whether refraining from work before Pesach is a minhag or an issur (violation). It answers that R. Meir viewed it as a minhag and R. Yehuda viewed it as an issur.Rashi explains that an issur applies to all places while a minhag does not. The P’nei Yehoshua asked why it was not possible that there is an issur that applies only in certain places.
The answer is that Rashi understood that a minhag is binding in a certain place only out of concern about machloket. R. Yehuda understood that even that which begins as a minhag and not a formal rabbinic prohibition turns into an issur based on the concept of al titosh (the pasuk that teaches not to forsake of one’s forebears teachings). The latter opinion is shared by R. Yochanan and is accepted as halacha in the case of Bnei Beishan [see last week]. That which the gemara had asked with skepticism whether minhag was binding was because the mishna in Pesachim follows R. Meir’s opinion, who felt that minhag impacts others only when a fear of machloket exists.
Regarding the Torah law of lo titgod’du,Reish Lakish understood that it is connected to the concern of looking like two Torahs. However, it does not apply even in one place, when one can explain the differences in behavior as unrelated to halacha. The concern about machloket applies only to the actions of an individual amongst the many, but different groups within one area would not be a problem.
R. Yochanan, on the other hand, viewed lo titgod’du as a fear of major conflict, as the Rambam said, of the type that can erupt between whole segments of a community. If this is a concern, then even if one can attribute not working to there not being work to do, members of the community who are in fact refraining from work for religious reasons will have an attitude that can lead to conflict with the other group. R. Yochanan was not bothered with the matter of different days for megilla because, as the Rabbis instituted explicitly in that manner, no one could get angry at others for following the instructions for their place.
The machloket between R. Yochanan and Reish Lakish corresponds to that of Abaye and Rava. Abaye felt there was a difference between one and two places regarding lo titgod’du because he understood the problem as one of machloket like R. Yochanan. Rava felt the matter related to looking like two Torahs and thus it would apply also to two places. He felt that lo titgod’du was only when the members of one beit din failed to come to one conclusion. The Rambam paskened like Abaye against Rava because he accepts R. Yochanan against Reish Lakish. Therefore, we accept a fear of great machloket between elements of society even when the actions of individuals are not clearly different. Thus, it is proper for the proponents of different opinions on a given issue to unite and come up with a uniform approach.
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