There's an adage: ask two Jews, get three opinions.

Jewish civilization thrives on disagreement and debate.  The Mishna, the Talmud, all the great commentaries on law and lore record disagreements between the rabbis on every topic imaginable.  The absence of disagreement can be cause for concern: when Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish passed away, another scholar was sent to study with Rabbi Johanan.  Whatever Rabbi Johanan would say, the student would reply that there was a source to support Rabbi's Johanan's opinion.  Rabbi Johnan exclaimed in exasperation:

Do you think you are at all like Ben Lakish?  When I would state a matter, Ben Lakish used to raise twenty-four objections, which I responded to with twenty-four rebuttals, forming a debate that led to a fuller comprehension of the tradition!

In response to the debates between the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai, a Divine Voice declared that "These and these are the words of the Living God" but that the opinion of the School of Hillel was to be preferred, because before stating their own opinion, they would first come to a full understanding of the other school's point of view.

A modern distillation of this comment might be, "Be curious, not furious."  I do not know from whence this aphorism has come to enter into my consciousness, but its originator must have been very wise.  Whenever we hear an other say something that strikes us the wrong way, causes us offense, or seems just plain-faced wrong, our first response might be to get angry; a better response is to become curious: what is the other's thinking that has led them to that position or opinion?  By understanding things from the other's point of view, we can come to a greater appreciation of what we ourselves believe, and why.

I believe that most of us share the same goals in life, operate from similar sets of values, yet have widely different opinions and theories as to the best ways to put them into practice.  I choose to believe that every politician elected to public office has as their goal the betterment of the community, but disagree on how best to achieve it.  When one side claims that the other's intention is to bring about the destruction of society, I believe that the system has failed, and furious has won out over curious.  I cannot have any effect on the way politicians are behaving right now, but I can try my best - when people disagree with what I have to say - to be curious and open to understanding: it is always possible that they might have a point.

So the next time I find myself becoming furious, I resolve to try to be curious.
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Courage.

David
 
Rabbi David Cantor
Temple Beth Shalom
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