July 20, 2024
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July 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

One night, as I was davening Maariv, I saw two professionals who have the same type of medical practice sitting at a table learning Torah together. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “this is very special. Two competing professionals learning together as chavrusa.” The next time I met Dr. Z., I remarked how beautiful it was to see the two of them learning together. He told me their story.

“We’ve been chavrusos now for over three years! My practice was running for a while, when one day, Dr. B. walked into my office. After we exchanged greetings, Dr. B. said, ‘I came here to tell you personally that I am opening my own practice this year locally. I didn’t want you to hear this from someone else. I also want you to know that I intentionally chose a location in the next town so I don’t infringe on your practice and your clientele.’

“I was floored. I told Dr. B. he was so considerate to open his office in the next town and to come speak with me personally. We both live here, so he’s entitled to practice here as much as I am. I was really touched by his consideration. Later, when I joined a night learning group and was looking for a chavrusa, the rabbi in charge told me Dr. B. was also looking. I jumped at the chance to have such a caring individual as my chavrusa.

“We’re not in competition,” said Dr. Z. “Rabbi Singer told me that Hashem has a lot of money. He will give me what I need and will give Dr. B. what he needs.”

Parshas Masei mentions the death of Aharon Hakohen, which occurred on Rosh Chodesh Av. We know that Rosh Chodesh Av starts the Nine Days—the period when the mourning for the loss of the Beis Hamikdash intensifies. What is the connection between the death of Aharon Hakohen and Rosh Chodesh Av?

The Gemara Rosh Hashana tells us the loss of a tzadik is equal to the loss of the Beis Hamikdash. This is alluded to in Parshas Masei (33:49), in the way the Torah describes the last place the Bnei Yisrael encamped in the desert—between Beit Hayeshimos and Avel Hashittim. Instead of the Torah listing the name of the actual place, as it does with the 41 other locations, here the Torah lists two surrounding markers. Why?

The Kli Yakar explains the word hayeshimos is from the word shmama, which means desolation—referring to the loss of the Beis Hamikdash. The word avel is from the word aveilus—which means mourning [for the loss of Aharon Hakohen]. The Torah juxtaposes these losses to teach us that the loss of a tzadik is comparable to the loss of the Beis Hamikdash, since we are left bereft, without the direction we had been receiving.

That’s one reason for citing the losses, but there’s more. Rav Avrohom Schorr quotes the Mishna in Avos: Hillel says be like the students of Aharon Hakohen: love peace and pursue peace. He points out from Eicha that the “pursuers” of klal Yisrael won when we did not “pursue” peace. Pursuit implies action and passion. The second Temple was destroyed because of sinas chinam, baseless hatred (Gemara Yoma). Clearly, there was a lack of active pursuit for peace. This, more than anything, made our enemies successful in attacking klal Yisrael and destroying the Beis Hamikdash.

People have many pursuits in life: happiness, pleasure, financial success… Aharon Hakohen taught that peace must be a primary pursuit. Interpersonal harmony doesn’t happen naturally; we need to pursue it.

We may get along well with some people easily, but others take work. This is even more important with regard to family: parents, children, spouses, siblings and in-laws. Achieving true harmony in our relationships takes continuous work on our part.

On Rosh Chodesh Av, the Jewish people lost their spiritual guide to pursuing peace, and intense mourning began. Still, the day of a yahrzeit of a tzadik serves as a time when we can make an effort to connect to the positive qualities he manifested in his lifetime. Hashem orchestrated the death of Aharon precisely at this time so we can all focus on the quality of Aharon as the pursuer of peace. Being more like Aharon can improve all of our relationships.

Let’s learn from Dr. Z. and Dr. B.—potential competitors who went out of their way to be peaceful and harmonious toward each other. They became friends and chavrusos. Let us each choose at least one additional person with whom we will actively pursue a harmonious relationship. Such a sincere effort will change us and signal to Hashem that we want to work toward the final redemption.

By Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. PTI has attracted people from all over northern New Jersey, including Teaneck, Paramus, Rockaway and Fair Lawn. He initiated and continues to lead a multi-level Gemara-learning program. Recently he has spread out beyond PTI to begin a weekly beis midrash program with in-depth chavrusa learning in Livingston, Fort Lee and a monthly group in West Caldwell. His email is [email protected].

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