From the archives:
Is A War Ever Civil?
In Sefer Shoftim  we [meaning girls, who actually learn Navi. Boys should take the cue and learn it to:-)] read of the tragic episode of פילגש בגבעה. A man became angry with his concubine who fled from his house. This eventually led to a chain of events that resulted in her death at the hands of the people of Givah and a civil war [is a war ever civil?]. The gemara [gittin 6b] discusses what incurred his wrath.
The gemara in gittin
ותזנה עליו פילגשו - רבי אביתר אמר זבוב מצא לה, ר' יונתן אמר נימא מצא לה. ואשכחיה ר' אביתר לאליהו, א"ל מאי קא עביד הקב"ה? א"ל עסיק בפילגש בגבעה. ומאי קאמר? אמר ליה אביתר בני כך הוא אומר יונתן בני כך הוא אומר. א"ל ח"ו ומי איכא ספיקא קמי שמיא? א"ל אלו ואלו דברי אלהים חיים הן זבוב מצא ולא הקפיד נימא מצא והקפיד. אמר רב יהודה זבוב בקערה ונימא באותו מקום זבוב מאיסותא ונימא סכנתא. איכא דאמרי אידי ואידי בקערה זבוב אונסא ונימא פשיעותא
Commenting on the text, And his concubine strayed against him, [how did she stray?] R. Aviatar said that the Levi found a fly with her, and R. Yonatan said that he found a hair on her.
R. Evyatar soon afterwards came across Eliyahu and said to him: ‘What is the Holy One, blessed be He, doing?’ and he answered, ‘He is discussing the question of the concubine in Givah.’
‘What does He say?’ said Eliyahu: ‘[He says], My son Aviatar says So-and-so, and my son Yonatan says So-and-so,’ Said R. Aviatar: ‘Can there possibly be uncertainty in the mind of the Heavenly One?’ He replied: Both [answers] are the word of the living God. He [the Levi] found a fly and excused it, he found a hair and did not excuse it.
Rav Yeudah explained: He found a fly in his food and a hair in loco concubitus [אותו מקום hey - I just copy from the Soncino]; the fly was merely disgusting, but the hair was dangerous. Some say, he found both in his food; the fly was not her fault, the hair was. [See Rashi]
So much to learn from agada
Before we get down to business, one point - This gemara is FILLED with wonders. To my mind, this is one of the most important gemaras on Shas. We learn here what HASHEM does with his time! He learns Navi according to the understanding of Chazal!! And what topic in particular is he involved in? The question of what made some Levi angry years back. Was it a fly or a hair in the wrong place? Hashem has nothing better to do with his time?! If he is already learning - let him learn Ktzos with Nesivos and add His own chiddushim, kviyachol! No. He is learning a STORY FROM NAVI [like a seminary girl] and is concerned with the question of what teed some guy off. [Maybe it was bein ha-sdarim??]
We see from here the importance of learning stories from Navi. We see how important it is to learn according to the understanding of Chazal. We see how important it is to understand each detail. We also see that we shouldn't make fun of seminary girls.
Is there a rule of אלו ואלו in questions that seem to be relating to concrete reality?
Back to our topic. When the gemara asked "Can there possibly be uncertainty in the mind of the Heavenly One?" Did the gemara not know the rule of אלו ואלו?
It would seem that the give and take revolves around the question of whether you can say אלו ואלו when dealing with a machlokes about a metziyus or a historical fact. First the gemara wondered how He can be unsure - either it was the hair or the fly AND IT COULDN'T HAVE BEEN BOTH because when it comes to מציאות we don't say אלו ואלו.
Eliyahu Hanavi [!!] responds that this understanding is not correct. Even when it comes to concrete reality we say אלו ואלו [at least in this instance - this doesn't obligate you NECESSARILY to follow Rabbeinu Tam. See the 8th installment].
The argument was about something much deeper than what made him angry
As we mentioned before: Isn't it a little strange that Hashem is trying to figure out why some Levi got angry at his concubine? The Holy Rebbe Yosef Chaim of Bahgdad explains [Ben Yehoyada] that one may not understand this gemara on a superficial level. There are great secrets hidden and embedded in the gemara. The same applies to other stories of Tanach. For example: The Torah tells us at the end of Vayishlach who the kings were that ruled in Edom? Like, who cares?? Some goyishe kings. So what. Yet, the Torah tells us about them at length. There are clearly great secrets here that we must try as best we can to reveal. He concludes the R' Aviatar and R' Yonatan were also telling us deeper secrets.
These sentiments are echoed by Rav Chaim Freidlander [אמונה והשגחה page 273 see there]. His Rebbi, Rav Dessler says the same thing:
...אולם כלל גדול הוא, כשחז"ל אומרים דעות שונות בעניני אגדה, הרי כולן מאירות אותו נושא מצדדים שונים מבחינות שונות (ואינם מחולקים). (חלק ב עמוד רמה)
והנה מפורש בתיקוני זהר דבעניני אגדה וקבלה לא שייך מחלוקת, והביאור הוא כנ"ל, משום ששני המבטים אמת כל אחד בבחינתו, ואינו חלוק למעשה... ופירוש 'פליגי' בזה, שהוא מופרש וחלוק זה מזה. (חלק ג עמוד שנג)
So the question here is NOT [only?] what happened historically but something much more profound that delves into the deeper recesses of existence. [Rav Dessler writes that if we are not on the level to understand the secrets then we shouldn't try - Vol. 4 P. 353]
The starting point must be Emunas Chachomim
If a person has Emunah in the kedusha of Chazal then this is an easy proposition to accept. For the scoffers, doubters and skeptics, it is not convincing. That is why in the world of Emunah, everything depends on one's starting point. If one starts with Emunah then he sees everything through those glasses.
Does the gemara argue history?
We are still left with a question: How to explain gemaras where there is an argument about a historical reality that relates to concrete halacha. Halacha is not an analogy but has a clear expression in our physical world.
Rav Dessler [Michtav M'eliyahu P. 56-57] explains that in certain matters, we lost the mesora as to what actually happened, so the job of the Chachomim is to now expound the psukim in order to determine how it should be done. Once the pasuk is expounded a certain way, it doesn't matter what the historical reality was. Even if the custom was to the contrary, it doesn't matter. The new understanding of the psukim trumps formerly accepted practice. Even if the practice was otherwise, that doesn't mean that there are no other ways of understanding the psukim. אלו ואלו דברי אלקים חיים.
Rav Karmel [in a footnote there] notes that this explanation sheds light on a wondrous gemara [Shabbos 63b]. The Chachomim say that the ציץ [headplate of the Kohen Gadol] had the words "Kodesh Lashem" written on one line.
Rebbi Elazar ben R' Yosi says that he was on Rome and SAW the ציץ with his own two eyes and the words Kodesh Lashem were actually written on one line.
Yet, one quick glance in the Rambam [כלי מקדש ט א] will reveal that he rules like the Chachomim. Ohhhhh myyyyy Gooooooooo..... We have clear "archaeological proof" [interesting how that "a" snuck its way in after the "h". Shkoyach spell-check] that it was not made according to their understanding, so how can he pasken like them??
The answer is that their understanding is ALSO true, regardless of the fact that accepted practice might have been different. Once we lost the mesorah, we have to learn the psukim and reach our own conclusions. This explanation is implicit in the Rambam himself who concludes that if one writes Kodesh Lashem on one line it is still kosher bi-dieved ופעמים שכתבוהו בשיטה אחת implying that the Rambam was well aware that they used to do it that way [as R' Elazar testified] but it doesn't matter because now we have a new understanding of the psukim.
I believe that this is precisely what Rav Hutner was saying about the machlokes about the shape of the beams [see Eilu Vi-eilu #7 that it doesn't matter what the historical reality was but how the psukim were understood]. This explanation also emerges from a Rishon - Tosfos Rabbeinu Peretz [Eiruvin 13]. He was bothered by the problem of how we can say אלו ואלו about a machlokes regarding the size of the mizbeach.
וי"ל דגם כולהו לא היה אלא בחד ענינא אלא חד מוכח מקרא דבדין היה לו להיות הכי, וחד מוכח מקרא דבדין היה לו להיות הכי, והא דקאמר אלו ואלו דברי אלקים חיים פי' דמתוך הפסוקים יש משמעות למידרש כמר וכמר אבל ודאי לא היה אלא בענין אחד ע"כ.
Exactly as we have been saying. What was in reality was certainly only in accordance with one of the two sides of the machlokes. However what concerns us is the implication of the psukim and not history. See also Rav Elchonon Wasserman [Kuntres Divrei Sofrim 4/6] and the sefer כבוד חכמים [from page 144 written by Rabbi Michoel Bush who seems to have two relatives who made it big in American politics. I wonder if he also named his son Michoel Jr.] to whom I am indebted for most of this post.