For the week ending 27 April 2013 / 16 Iyyar 5773

Putting Out the Fire

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: I sometimes see two neighbors getting into a heated argument over some trivial matter. What is the right thing to do to calm them down and restore good relations?

Answer: A Talmudic Sage was once directed by the Prophet Eliyahu to two men whom he described as "Citizens of the World-to-Come". When he asked these fellows of rather ordinary appearance what it was that they did to deserve such a title, they responded that they had a special talent for making people happy which they utilized for cheering up depressed people and for putting out the fire of a quarrel between two parties.

Even if you are not blessed with the talent of these men, you are certainly capable of adopting their strategy. Two people quarrelling with each other tend to forget that there are more important things in life than the matter about which they are so worked up. Your intervention with a light touch may succeed in helping them see things in the right proportion and inspire them to abandon their quarrel.

You must also bear in mind that no one wants to feel like a loser. It is therefore crucial to give both parties the feeling that they are right. Although this is an illogical proposition you will be pleasantly surprised to see how two people weary of fighting are prepared to clutch at this straw to save their pride.

The other strategy for restoring peace is the one which was used by Aharon Hakohen. Our Sages tell us that when he became aware of discord between two parties he approached each of them separately and told him a "white lie" that the other party was very upset with the rupture in their relations and was anxious to make up. When the two eventually ran into each other, they were happy to be friends again.

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