Posted on | October 30, 2006 | By Michoel | 11 Comments
I am writing this for myself as well as anyone else that could benefit from it.
Several years ago, someone approached Rav Mordechai Schwab, zecher tzadik livracha, and asked him to comment on a statement of Rav Shach regarding the Chabad movement. (This was before the Rebbe’s petira.) Rav Schwab’s response was a complete refusal to comment. Rav Schwab (although he was a Yekke by yichus) was clearly a strong Litvak, and much more aligned with Rav Shach’s derech ha’avodah and hashkafos. And yet his response was “dumia”, complete silence and refusal of any involvement in the discussion.
I was once at a JEP dinner in Monsey. The guest speaker was of a somewhat more modern orientation. Since Rav Schwab’s son, Rabbi Yehudah Schwab is the director of JEP, Rav Schwab attended and sat at the dais. His seat was facing forward toward the general seating. The guest speaker was behind him at the microphone. Being the incredible baal middos that he was, he could not turn his seat around so that his back would be toward the tzibbur. He also could not fail to treat the guest speaker with less than the ultimate kavod. So, he turned his seat a bit, and sat with his (80 year old) neck crocked around at an uncomfortable looking angle for the entire length of the drasha, never removing his eyes from the speaker.
That was Rav Schwab. And that is the model I believe we all need to emulate if we are serious about ending intra-communal strife. You’ll complain that this Pollyannaish? So what! When every individual is Pollyannaish the entire community will also be and that will be a good thing. Those that have a real responsibility and ability to comment intelligently will do so. But the vast majority of us would be better served by ignoring the labels as much as possible. We need to return to basic derech eretz and worrying less that the frum community desperately needs our hashkafa pronouncements in order to help the confused. That is not a contradictory to the discussion of issues, even passionately, so long as it is done with humility. We need to make strong individual commitments to treat others respectfully. And we need to not take offense at every real or imagined slight. We need to model the behavior of Rav Schwab. Then our communities will be better and happier places.