A MESSAGE FROM THE RABBI
As I am writing this message we have just finished an awesome Zoom discussion about the movie “Just Mercy”. Look for a notification about our next discussion which will be on the HBO series: “The Plot Against America”. (It is a 6 part series, so begin watching it now!)
In addition to our usual complement of services this Shabbat, don’t forget to join us for our Welcome Back Zoom Brunch on Sunday morning, June 28 at 10:30 featuring the return of our dear friend Dr. Eric Mandel. Dr. Mandel will be giving a PowerPoint presentation entitled US-Israel relations and the state of the Middle East in a post-Covid world. As always, Dr. Mandel’s presentation will be followed by a question/answer session.
Now on to Torah! In this week’s Torah portion, Korach is a first cousin to Moses and Aaron. He and his followers are unhappy that they are not THE leaders and they begin a rebellion. There is much rich narrative to discuss in this Torah portion. However, I want to focus on one piece, because it is pertinent to my recent messages.
Moses, in an effort to resolve the conflict, calls a meeting. Unfortunately, Korach and his group refuse to meet. Their decision to not even begin a conversation with Moses is at the root of the problem and it doomed their effort from the beginning.
I am certain that the refusal to engage and to discuss issues has proven fatal to many a civilization.
The Rabbis were very keyed into the fact that it was natural for people to have disagreements. In Hebrew, the word for disagreement is “Makhloket”. Their solution was that a disagreement required an open, serious, but respectful, conversation.
In the Rabbinic vernacular each Makhloket had 49 arguments for one side, and 49 arguments for the other side. The discussion (argument) needed to thoroughly run through all sides of a dispute. At the end, a vote was taken and the argument that received the most votes, was the one that was followed. This is called “49 vs. 49”. The number 49 was not chosen by accident. Of the several explanations given, the one I like the most is that our ancestors waited 49 days to receive the Torah after they left Egypt. We commemorate this each year when we count 49 days from Passover until Shavuot.
A disagreement that follows the rubric of full and respectful argument is called a “Makhloket Shem Shamayim”, “A disagreement for the sake of heaven”.
A dispute that does not get resolved in this fashion, i.e. one where the parties either do not discuss or where they are completely disrespectful, is “a disagreement that is not for the sake of heaven”. This method is destructive and should be avoided.
We live in a world in which folks do not engage, one with the other. At best, we do not listen to each other. At worst, we defame and disparage each other. At absolute worst we seek to physically harm one another. Because of this, nothing gets resolved and the venom within continues boils over.
The Torah tells us story after story after story about what happens when we refuse to speak and/o to listen. The end result of such behavior is never good.
Have the conversation. Have the tough conversation. Remember that when you are having the conversation, whether easy or tough, you need to socially distance. And for Gosh sake, don’t forget to wear the mask.
S habbat Shalom - Rabbi Michael S. Jay