Civil Discourse


As Rabbi Lewis taught about last Shabbat, yesterday was the 9th of Adar, a date marked in rabbinic tradition as one on which respectful disagreement between the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel devolved into violent conflict.  The ancient rabbis suggested that this date be remembered with fasting and with a recommitment to ensuring that all of our arguments are l’shem Shamayim – “for the sake of Heaven.”  Unfortunately, we are living through a moment in which our public sphere is providing us with terrible models of argument, and these bad models are spreading.  Instead of respectful disagreement, we see personal attacks and smears.  Instead of thoughtful discussion of issues, we see scare tactics and slurs.  And instead of critical thinking, we see the use of stereotypes and polarizing oppositions that obscure the complexity of the world we must confront.  Please listen to the words of the ancient Jewish sages, who prized respectful disagreement and argument above all else.  Within our community and outside it, you can be a model of respect, thoughtfulness, and appreciation of complexity when we address issues on which we disagree.  May such values – essential Jewish values – spread from you to those around you and to all in our community and country.  And may all of our arguments be for the sake of Heaven.