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    The Gemara in Masechet

    Kiddushin (32ha-b) brings Rav

    Yosef’s ruling that a Rabbi is

    allowed to forego on the honor

    owed to him by virtue of his Torah

    scholarship. Rav Yosef reached

    this conclusion on the basis of the

    fact that Hashem Himself waived

    His honor when He led and guided

    the Jewish People when they left Egypt. If G-d Himself

    could forego on His honor, Rav Yosef reasoned, then

    certainly a Rabbi can waive the honor owed to Him.

    Rava challenged this line of reasoning. He said that G-d

    owns everything, and so He has the authority to forego

    on His honor. But a Rabbi represents the Torah – and the

    Torah is not his that he can waive the honor owed to the

    Torah. We are required to show honor to Rabbis because

    they represent the Torah – and no Rabbi has the authority

    to forego on the honor that we must give to the Torah.

    But then Rava changed his mind, and conceded to Rav

    Indeed, the“†–†אי≠ן¨†תו≠רה†די≠לי≠ה†∫Yosef’s ruling. He said

    Torah is his.” When a person learns and becomes a

    scholar, he “acquires” the Torah. It becomes his. Rav

    proves this from the second pasuk in Tehillim which says

    he –†בת≠ור≠תו†יה≠גה†יו≠מם†ול≠יל≠ה†¨about a Torah scholar

    delves into “his Torah” day and night. A scholar is

    considered to “own” the Torah he learned. And so a

    Rabbi does, in fact, have the right to waive the honor

    owed to him

    This is a critically important statement, one which

    encapsulates one of the main objectives of the holiday of

    Shavuot. It is about making a commitment to “own” the

    Torah, to build a very personal connection with the

    Torah. Accepting the Torah means that we do not

    merely flow with the tide, doing what everybody else

    does. It means that we make the decision to take the

    Torah and make it part of our essence, part of our very


    Our community has so much to be proud of in regard to

    religious observance. I feel, however, that many of us

    suffer from what we might call “the everyone disease.”

    We are too affected by what everyone else is doing. We

    are too conscious of how people are living their lives,

    and this can sometimes pull us to act in a way which isn’t

    right for us, and pull us away from acting the way which

    is right for us.

    We all know that the Bet Ha’mikdash was destroyed

    because of שנאת†חינם†– “baseless hatred.” This is like the

    ABCs of Tishah B’Av observance, and the primary

    theme that we hear over and over again, each and every

    year, during this season. But there’s one problem. The

    Gemara gives a different reason for why the Bet

    Ha’mikdash is destroyed. While it is true that in one

    place the Gemara mentions שנאת†חינם†, in a different place

    (Masechet Bava Metzia), the Gemara says that the

    Temple was destroyed – דין†תורה†ולא†עבדו†לפנים†משורת†הדין

    – which means that the people of that time insisted on

    following the strict law, without extending beyond the

    letter of the law. Really?! What happened to ?שנאת†חינם

    Isn’t that what everyone talks about when we reflect on

    the destruction? And why is it so bad to stick to the law

    and not go beyond the law? The answer lies in the most

    important rule we need to know each and every time we

    find ourselves in a conversation with somebody –

    anybody – and there’s some tension, some disagreement,


    people speak with passion and emotion, they do not

    mean exactly what they say. They mean something else.

    All people carry with them some degree of pain, caused

    by the challenges and hardships they’ve had or are

    dealing with. And, all people are a little insecure, and

    worried about being significant. Of course, people do

    not come right out and say it. But they’re all feeling this,

    to one extent or another. When a sister is giving another

    sister a hard time about where the holiday meal should

    be, insisting that she should host it, she is expressing

    insecurity. If a partner is sitting in the boardroom

    arguing against an idea for a new product line proposed

    by a different partner, he is expressing insecurity. If a

    friend becomes overly sensitive and upset over an

    innocent comment, this is emotional fragility caused by

    the pain the friend is feeling. This is לפנים†משורת†הדין†. We

    are expected to be detectives, to UNDERSTAND

    people, rather than JUDGE people. And this is the key to

    overcoming שנאת†חינם†– destructive fighting and arguing

    that plagues so many families, so many businesses, and

    so many communities. We need to be detectives,

    understanding what’s behind other people’s vices. We

    need to stop rushing to judge and responding in kind, and

    start trying to empathize with people’s struggles lying

    beneath the surface. The Talmud tells a story that is both

    humorous and sad, about a husband and wife who spoke

    two different dialects. The husband told his wife to buy

    two בוציני†, which meant “melons” in his dialect, but

    meant “candlesticks” in her dialect. When the wife came

    home with two candlesticks, the husband was angry, and

    told her to bang the candlesticks on the בבא†– which

    means “door” in Aramaic. The only בבא†the wife knew

    was the great Rabbi, Rabbi Baba ( בבא†) ben Buta. And so

    she went to the Rabbi, who was delivering a class, and

    started hitting him with the candlesticks. He asked the

    woman what she was doing, and she explained that her

    husband was angry that she bought the wrong item, and

    told her to bang them on בבא†. The Rabbi gave her a

    warm blessing that she and her husband should have

    two outstanding sons. If the Rabbi had followed the

    strict letter of the law, he would have repudiated the

    woman for being so foolish, and for thinking that she

    should barge in and start hitting him with candlesticks.

    But he extended לפנים†משורת†הדין†, understanding that

    this woman was fragile, struggling with difficult issues

    in her marriage. And so he responded kindly, warmly

    and sensitively. This is the key to overcoming שנאת

    חינם†– doing our detective work, recognizing the pain,

    struggles and insecurities beneath the surface, and

    responding not to what the other person says, but rather

    to what the other person means.