United We Stand

Question

Hi Rabbi, does Judaism have a “secret recipe” for making a nation more united? It hurts me to see so much division in our society today. Thanks in advance.

, , 4 weeks

Answers

  1. In a part of the Torah called “Ethics” (5:17) we are taught: “Any dispute that is for the sake of Heaven is destined to endure. But one that is not for the sake of Heaven is not destined to endure. Which is a dispute that is for the sake of Heaven? The dispute between Hillel and Shammai. Which is a dispute that is not for the sake of Heaven? The dispute of Korach and his congregation.”

    The Meiri (Rabbi Menachem ben Shlomo Meiri, Catalonia 1249-1306) explains this teaching in the following manner:

    The arguments between Hillel and Shammai: In their debates, one of them would render a decision and the other would argue against it, out of a desire to discover the truth, not out of cantankerousness or a wish to prevail over his fellow. That is why when he was right, the words of the person who disagreed, endured. An argument not for the sake of Heaven was that of Korach and his congregation, for they came to undermine Moses, our teacher, may he rest in peace, and his position, out of envy and contentiousness and ambition for victory.

    We see from these wise words of the Meiri that our Torah scholars from thousands of years ago have already taught us the distinction between a dispute that is positive, helpful and enduring, and a dispute that is negative, destructive and transient. A dispute that is motivated by both sides seeking the truth, and not for personal gain, such as that between Hillel and Shammai, leads to an eternal win-win result. However, a dispute motivated by even one side seeking personal gain, power and victory at any cost, as Korach did, will quickly end in tragedy.

    Nowadays, when division seems to have become uncivil and destructive, perhaps our society would be wise to heed the teachings from our Torah Sages. Any dispute should be only “for the sake of Heaven” — for the sake of truth and not for personal or partisan gain. Even the manner of any disagreement between people would benefit from following the model of Hillel and Shammai and show utmost respect for another opinion. As we are taught, “The law is in accord with the students of Hillel because they were kindly and modest, because they studied not only their own rulings but also those of the school of Shammai, and because they taught the words of the students of Shammai even before their own.”

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team