ASK THE REBBE from the virtual desk of the OU Vebbe Rebbe
Question: I would like a Rabbinic teaching on the general question of how to deal with a clash between the needs of an individual versus the preferences of the majority. The following hypothetical situation should illustrate. For a shul kiddush, some people cannot eat milchig; some cannot eat fleishig. Everyone can eat vegetarian. I assume that even though the majority prefers fleishig, a vegetarian kiddush is preferable since everyone could eat. Fairness and thoughtfulness requires some people to forgo their preferences for the needs of others. The closest teaching I can think of is that we give up the right to hear the shofar when Rosh Hashana is on Shabbat lest a Jew carry it improperly. To prevent one person from sinning, we all forgo shofar blowing. There must be a phrase that sums up this concept!
Answer: I hope not to disappoint you, but I can’t think of one shorthand phrase which mandates preferring the more basic needs of one at the expense of the preferences of the many. There are a plethora of specific laws which refer to contradictory needs of preferences of neighbors.
Examples: one person wants to open a business on a residential street, while neighbors don’t want to be bothered by his clientele; one wants to fertilize his field while others complain that it may attract flies. The basic rabbinic approach is pragmatic and balanced (and, in many cases, similar to modern legal systems). There is a particular stress put on the needs of the community. The apparent rights of the individual are, at times, “compromised” in order to allow the community to lead a normal life (see Bava Kama 28a as but one example). The Talmud (Bava Kama 81b) does have a phrase: “on this condition, Joshua divided up the land to individuals”, which allows one person’s important needs to override the rights of another or even mildly disrupt the public domain. However, balance is the name of the game. Let’s use your case as an example. A classic kiddush is fleishig, as the majority prefers. There is no need for the majority to be deprived because of a small minority. Because of the needs of the minority, one should make sure that there is enough vegetarian food to meet their basic needs. The vegetarians should be happy that their needs were addressed without imposing on the others.
The matter of shofar blowing is different. It is not out of concern for a specific person who might make a mistake that we not blow, but out of respect for Hashem and His Shabbat that we suspend other religious needs. By the way, when there are competing needs, we at times give preference to religious needs. Thus, a neighbor who is making noise is given more leeway if the noise is emanating from a Torah study hall (Bava Batra 20b). One may not leave a torch outside his store lest it burn a passerby’s load. However, one may leave a Chanukah menorah outside despite a similar risk (Bava Kama 61b).
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Usually, persons asking for advice have already solved their own problem without knowing it.
It is easy for me to understand how a person without income is able to survive. For such a one survives by Faith and Trust in G-d. But what I do not understand is: How does a person who has ample income survive?
REASON ALEINU is a magnificent praise of the Almighty. Accordingly, it should be recited while standing. The numeric value of ALEINU is 70+30+ 10+50+6 = 166, which is the same as the word U'M'U'MAD [and standing].
DATAN & AVIRAM
Mr. & Mrs. ON b. PELET
She went before Moshe in his stead, but Moshe at first shunned her. Then he was told who she was and he listened to her story. Moshe escorted Mrs. ON home and called inside to ON top come out, because G-d had forgiven him... (Midrash HaGadol on Bamidbar)
Even though her motives might not have been the best, ON's wife is praised by our Sages for having saved her husband from a terrible fate.
And the P'til T'cheilet must stand out. It must catch the eye. Becasue the Torah says, And you will see IT (the reference is to the T'cheilet thread, not the Tzitzit in general), and remember ALL THE MITZVOT, and do them. Thus the BEGED SHE'KULO T'CHEILET is special, but not the way Korach might have thought. Check out
In our generation, those who denigrate religious leaders tend to use the same pattern of argument as used by Korach. First, they inflate their own genealogy. Then they employ the beautifully democratic line that having been created in the image of G-d, we should all have equal opportunities to lead. Sometimes, they play up to our birthright. So when they feel shunned and resentful, they find it easy, like Korach, to rally their closest neighbors and capitalize on their misfortunes.
Next they seek a scapegoat to ridicule with half-truths. For after challenging Moshe’s legitimacy and the way in which he allegedly took power for himself, it is but a short step to ridicule the entire Torah. And even after hearing a reasoned and articulate response, the contemporary Korachs and their cohorts are too full of rhetoric to retract.
What signs should occur for the inherent truth to be revealed? What latter-day almond branches need to blossom before traditional values will once again be prized? When, we ask ourselves, will the spiritual prowess of the individual once again become the shining beacon of Jewish leadership that it once was?
Sincerely yours, Menachem Persoff, Director, Israel Center