Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Problem of Chumras II

In a post last year, I summarized R. Avigdor Nebenzahl's list of reasons why being overly strict has negative consequences (link). In the same book but a different section (Sichos Le-Yom Ha-Kippurim, pp. 18-20), R. Nebenzahl points out that Gedaliah, the last Jewish ruler over whose assasination we fasted this past Monday, was killed because he was too strict. He was warned that Yishmael, the renegade soldier, was plotting to assasinate him.

However, he refused to listen to the lashon ha-ra. He insisted that he must dismiss the gossip. Really, he should have refrained from believing the rumor but taken precautions in case it was true. Because Gedaliah was too strict on the laws of lashon ha-ra and refused to listen to the accusations, the Gemara (Nidah 61a) considers him guilty of the murders that Yishmael ended up committing.

Click here for moreIn life, we need to maintain a delicate balance. R. Nebenzahl illustrates this from the fast days over the destruction of the Temples, described in Zechariah (8:19): "The fast of the fourth month [17th of Tammuz], the fast of the fifth [9th of Av], the fast of the seventh [3rd of Tishrei], and the fast of the tenth [10th of Teves], shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah. Therefore love truth and peace." Why does the verse end by telling us to love truth and peace?

Gedaliah, in the above-mentioned story, preferred peace over truth and that sealed the destruction of the First Temple. R. Zechariah ben Avkulas insisted on rejecting a sacrifice from the king so as not to mislead people regarding the law (story here: link). He preferred truth over peace, which led to the destruction of the Second Temple. Rather, the key to success is to love both truth and peace (cf. Messilas Yesharim, ch. 20).

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