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Don't Get Involved

Korach (Numbers 16-18 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

Unfortunately it happens. People get into disputes -- from quiet disagreement to full-blown arguments. When we hear about one, it can be tempting to get involved. Everyone seems to have something to say about it, so why shouldn't we put our "two cents" in as well?

The Torah teaches the value of not getting involved in other people's disputes. When Korach misunderstood Moses' intentions as leader of the Jewish people, he started a quarrel with him. Many people, instead of minding their business, chose to join up with Korach, and as a result, the dispute grew and caused great divisiveness within the Jewish people.

When God revealed that Korach's attack was unjustified, he and all of his followers had to face the unpleasant consequences of their imprudent actions. Whereas those who had kept out of it were happy they did. The Torah teaches us how important it is to try to stay out of arguments ourselves and certainly not to get involved with those of others.


In our story, a girl wisely doesn't get involved in a dispute that doesn't concern her.


One thing Marcia liked about the summer was how she was able to catch up with her old friends from the neighborhood. During the school year everyone just seemed so busy between school, homework, and chores that it was hard to really socialize. But the long lazy summer afternoons in her quiet neighborhood when all the kids seemed to be outside all the time was a natural opportunity to reconnect.

But this year everything was different. Elaine and Sue, first cousins, and two of the most popular girls on the block, had gotten into a big argument about which of them would inherit their grandmother's beautiful china doll collection. Now they weren't talking to each other and the whole neighborhood seemed to split into two camps around them.

It seemed to Marcia that everyone she knew had a strong opinion about who was right. And even though most people agreed that it was a serious argument about a family matter, nobody even seemed really sure what the details of the fight were about.

Marcia tried to stay friends with everybody, but the summer just wasn't the same. Her pretty tree-lined road which always felt to her like a summer camp now felt more like a war zone.

One afternoon Marcia's mom asked her to go down to the corner store to pick up a loaf of bread. She headed down the block and couldn't help but shake her head in disbelief at what she saw. The whole middle of their quiet dead-end was practically empty of kids, while two groups had formed on opposite sidewalks -- one group centered around Elaine and the other around Sue! Both groups were trying hard to look like they were having fun, by laughing loudly and stuff like that, while flashing tense looks at the other side. But they all looked terribly uncomfortable to Marcia, who sighed, feeling relieved not to be part of the fight.

She went into the store, bought a loaf of bread and a couple of other things and started heading home. She was nearly in the front door of her apartment building when she met up with two sisters who lived upstairs from her -- Shelley and Jan. One was holding a day-glo orange jump rope. The girls greeted each other and made some pleasant small talk. But soon the topic came up that was on everyone's mind.

"So Marcia," asked Shelley. "Whose 'camp' are you in? Are you on Elaine's side or Sue's?"

"Yes," replied Marcia matter-of-factly, looking the girl in the eyes. The sisters looked confused.

"What do you mean 'yes'?" blurted out Jan. "Yes to Elaine, or yes to Sue?"

Marcia gave her friends a disarming smile. "Yes to both of them," she said. "They were both my friends before this fight and they both still are."

The girls raised their eyebrows. "That makes sense," said Shelley, "but don't you even have an opinion?"

"I certainly do," said Marcia boldly. "In my opinion it's none of my business!"

The girls burst out laughing and nodded their heads in approval.

"We're going out to jump rope now, do you want to join us?" asked Jan.

"Sure," said Marcia. "Let me just drop off this package to my mom. But I'll play only on one condition ... that we jump rope in the middle of the road and not on either side."

The three girls went out to play in the middle of the street, in-between the two groups of kids. At first the kids on the sides of the road looked at them confused, but little by little some of their friends started to catch on to what they were trying to do, and joined them in the middle of the road - and out of the fight.

(To be continued next week...)


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Marcia feel when she saw that the kids from the neighborhood had all joined in Elaine and Sue's argument?
A. She felt sad, but she thought it wasn't right for people to get involved in fights that weren't their business.

Q. If two of your friends get into a quarrel and try to get you to take sides, should you?
A. No. Usually it's a good idea to stay out of other people's quarrels.

Ages 6-9

Q. Most of us accept that everyone has a right to his opinion. If so, what's wrong with expressing one's opinion and taking sides in an argument?
A. While a person might be entitled to his opinion, this "right" is also an obligation that a thoughtful person will make sure to use wisely. Before we even form -- and certainly before we share our opinions -- we have to consider whether we really have a clear picture of the situation. Also, it's very important to think about what effect we will have on others if we make our opinion known.

Q. What strategies can you think of to avoid being drawn into quarrels?
A. We can be very careful what we say concerning the quarrel. Word travels fast. People who want us to take their side will consider any little hint we give as a sign that we're on their side, or that we are against them. It's a good idea to try to change the subject when we are approached on the issue or give a light, non-committal answer like Marcia did when approached by her neighbors.

Q. Can you think of a time when you voiced your opinion and later wished you didn't? How would you do things differently today?

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Marcia most likely had an opinion in the matter of her friends' quarrel. Yet when asked, she chose to remain silent. A great Jewish thinker once said, "Not everything we think must be said, not everything said must be written down, and not everything written down must be published." How do you understand this as it relates to human interaction?
A. A person's mind is a constantly active generator of ideas. If we really paid attention to our thoughts, we would be amazed to see what a wide range of responses and opinions pops into our minds. Our job as growth-oriented human beings is to purposely filter this flow of information and decide which of it really reflects our genuine feelings and will benefit others. In the end we will find that only a small percentage of all the thoughts that cross our mind are worth sharing. Marcia realized this and was successfully able to refrain hastily voicing her opinion on a matter she realized she knew little about. Her silence allowed her to remain neutral, stay on good terms with both of her friends, and begin to restore harmony.

Q. Can you think of a time when you voiced your opinion and later wished you didn't? How would you do things differently today?

Q. The sages teach us that not only shouldn't we speak badly about people, but also we shouldn't say too many good things about somebody in front of others. Can you think of a reason why it might be bad to express a lot of praise?
A. Sometimes it can backfire. We can never be sure that one of the people present doesn't have some hidden grudge concerning the person we are speaking about. When they hear us praising the other person they may respond with their own not-so-flattering opinion and this may start an argument or intensify an existing quarrel. Our words are very powerful, and it takes a lot of awareness to use them only to heal and not to harm.


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