“Kol Machloket SheHi LeSheim Shamayim Sofah LeHitkayem ViSheEinah LeSheim Shamayim Ein Sofah LeHitkayem,” “Every dispute that is for the sake of Heaven is sure to last. However, any dispute that is not for the sake of heaven will surely not last” (Avot 5:17).
Many times, issues face the Jewish People which evoke passion. Even within Orthodoxy, differences of opinion emerge as to what is best for the Jewish People. Often both sides mean well, and both parties genuinely feel that their opinions, decisions, and policies will strengthen Judaism. They may be participating in a healthy dispute LeSheim Shamayim, a dispute that forces people to express their views in coherent and lucid ways. Other people might weigh in. Ideas and opinions are sharpened and clarified. However, there is often a steep price to pay.
“VeHayu HaKruvim Porshei Kenafei LeMal’ah Sochachim BeKanfeihem Al HaKaporet UPneihem Ish El Achiv El HaKaporet Yihyu Penei HaKruvim,” “And the Keruvim shall be with wings spread upward, sheltering the lid with their wings with their faces toward one another; toward the lid shall be the faces of the Keruvim” (Shemot 25:20). The Torah describes how the faces of the Keruvim faced one another. However, the Gemara (Bava Batra 99a) notes that this verse seems to contradict a verse found in Divrei HaYamim II (3:13). The Pasuk states: “The wings of these Keruvim thus spread out over twenty cubits. They stood upon their feet facing the temple.”
Which one was it? Did the faces of the Keruvim face each other or did they face the outside? The Gemara in Bava Batra (ad loc.) explains that the verse in Parashat Terumah refers to a time when the Jewish People are performing the will of Hashem. When we are serving Hashem properly, the Keruvim face each other. However, when Klal Yisrael is not performing the will of Hashem, the faces of the Keruvim face away from each other.
What does this mean? What is the significance of the faces of the Keruvim facing each other specifically when we are performing the will of Hashem? Rashbam (Bava Batra s.v. Kan BiZman) explains that that when we are properly serving Hashem, our relationship is likened to that of man and woman lovingly gazing at each other. Therefore, in such an instance, the Keruvim face one another. When we are acting in accordance with the Torah, our relationship with Hashem is one of closeness and love. However, when we, Chas VeShalom, conduct ourselves in a manner that is not consistent with the will of Hashem, the faces of the Keruvim turn apart, as if there is a rift between us and Hashem.
Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein offers a different message, one that is powerful and penetrating. If we, Klal Yisrael, want to properly fulfill the will of Hashem, we need to “look at each other.” We need to worry about and care for each other. If we do indeed “face each other,” it is proof that we are fulfilling the will of Hashem. After all, is that not what Hashem wants from His children? However, if a person’s face is towards his own house and he only worries about his own life, feelings, and sensitivities, it is clear that he is not fulfilling the will of Hashem.
If the message of the Keruvim facing each other is to teach us how we too must face each other, why were the Keruvim not hugging? Why were they not holding hands? Getting along, caring for others, and treating others with respect and love does not mean that we must agree to everything. We can stand apart, just as the Keruvim did. However, when we stand apart, even separated by miles, can’t we still gaze lovingly at each other?
It is relatively easy to treat others with dignity and care for others when we are getting along. When there are no disputes, it is not a challenge to respect others and look out for them. When we argue, however, even with the best of intentions, respect, admiration, and care must be exhibited.
The Gemara (Kiddushin 30b) states that while fighting the war of Torah, even a father and his son begin as enemies. Yet, they do not part from one another until they love each other. It is well know that Rav Kook ZT”L and Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld ZT”L had many heated arguments regarding what was best for the religious life of the Jews residing in Eretz Yisrael. Many of the ramifications of these disputes linger today. As fierce as these arguments were, the two giants held each other in great esteem and accorded one another with much respect.
One time, there was a Brit Milah to which both Rabbanim were invited. Rav Kook arrived before Rabbi Sonnenfeld and waited for him. When Rabbi Sonnenfeld arrived, Rav Kook took his chair and with his own hands placed it before Rabbi Sonnenfeld saying “we must honor him.” Numerous stories are told of how Rav Sonnenfeld would insist on Rav Kook entering a Simcha hall first and of them sitting and talking for long periods of time. If these two giants could battle so fiercely for the sake of Torah, yet still treat each other with respect, can’t we? Let us learn the lesson of the Cherubim and “face each other.” Let us care for and worry about one another regardless of our differences.