Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children. (Dedicated to the Refuah Sheleima of Shalva Adina Bas Sarah Chana & Eliyahu Aharon Ben Yocheved Yetta Ettel).
A widow was left destitute with 2 young girls to feed. She decided to plow the field she was left with the donkey and the ox – the only 2 animals she owned.
The Rabbi arrived on the scene and told her she could not do such plowing since it violates the laws of Kilayim (Devarim 22:10). Left with no other possibility, she decided to unhook the animals and had her two daughters pull the plow in order to do the work.
After the plowing was done, she desired to plant multiple crops to attain a diverse yield. Again, the Rabbi arrived and told her that she could not do so because she needed to be careful about Kilayim of the field (Vayikra 19:19). She decided to plant wheat alone.
At the time of her bountiful harvest, the Rabbi showed up again seeking to separate Terumah, Terumas Maaser Maaser Rishon and Maaser Ani. The widow was speechless but complied nonetheless. She saw that she was “losing” too much in the field and sold it to buy 2 sheep to milk and use their wool for a parnassa instead.
However, as soon as the sheep gave birth, the Kohein came and took the baby as a Bechor. She complied. He returned to take the first shearing (Reishit HaGez) as well. The woman decided that the sheep were not worth it and decided to avoid the Kohein by Shechting the sheep. The Kohein returned again taking the Zeroa, LeChayaim and Keiva. She got frustrated and declared them Chirim and so the Kohein took them all.
If I told you such a story of corruption that was taking place in your community wouldn’t you also be upset?
The Midrash (Tehillim Alef) recounts the widow’s tale of woe – as told by a master story teller – Korach. He told a story that would resound with the people and play to their emotions just enough to have them forget that the Rabbi, Moshe, and the Kohein, Aharon, were following the words of Hashem. He began the story with an assumption, that the alleged corruption took place and that the widow suffered as a result. However critical details that would have made a thinking person aware of the deceitful intent of Korach and the inconsistency of his story were lost in the emotional plot line. (Remember, everyone knows that Terumos U’Maaseros only applied in Eretz Yisrael and besides, when we follow the word of Hashem we become wealthy not impoverished).
So why did so many fall for the story of Korach? How did he convince 250 Sanhedrin heads that he was justified in his rebellion? Rav Yaakov Galinsky ztl. famed Maggid of Yirushalayim explains that the people were transfixed by a story. By listening to a story, we are often transported to a different time or place with different people and relax our critical thinking in favor of identifying with the emotions of the story teller.
On the positive, We do the same thing when we relate to the story of Megillas Esther and the book of Yonah as well. In fact the Mogen Avraham (284) notes a practice of just reading three Possukim of the Haftorah and telling the rest in the local language of the people. The reason is clear – when telling a story – sometimes the point isn’t in the detail, it is in the moral.
When can we take a lesson from a story whose details are somewhat suspect?
When must we be careful not to overanalyze a story?
How can we learn to take a story’s lesson to heart even when we must challenge the details themselves?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and communiti