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Beit Midrash Family and Society Understanding Circumstances

Uniting the Religious Public

Attaining unity does not mean holding identical opinions. This is not the intention at all. Disagreements, so long as they are for the sake of Heaven, are a healthy and desirable phenomenon.
2888
Dedicated to the memory of
R. Meir b"r Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
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1. For the Sake of Heaven
2. Hillel, Shammai, and Korach
3. A Humble Opinion

For the Sake of Heaven
For a long time now we have been occupied with the question of how to go about uniting Israel's entire religious public. Unity is necessary for its own sake. Unity possesses extrinsic value, even if no additional benefits follow. It is clear, though, that such a unity would carry with it great benefit. Together, we would be capable of more successfully taking on all of the challenges that face the entire religious public.

Attaining unity does not imply holding identical opinions; it does not mean that all sides reach full agreement on a particular issue. This is not the intention at all. Disagreements for the sake of Heaven are a healthy phenomenon, as the Mishna teaches: "All disagreements that are for the sake of Heaven are destined to persevere; all disagreements that are not for the sake of Heaven are destined to disappear." A dispute for the sake of Heaven serves to clarify the truth. Such disputes do not cause division. Rather, they reinforce unity. A disagreement for the sake of Heaven is not driven by ulterior motives. It is not tainted by trivial personal considerations. The disagreeing parties continue to feel affection for each other despite the fact that they hold completely opposing opinions.

Hillel, Shammai, and Korach
Such was the nature of the disagreements between the schools of Hillel and Shammai. They were disagreements for the sake of Heaven. The Talmud brings a long list of issues concerning which these two schools held conflicting opinions, and then explains that, at any rate, "Disciples of the school of Shammai did not refrain from marrying women from the school of Hillel, and disciples of the school of Hillel did not refrain from marrying women from the school of Shammai. One learns from this that affection and friendship were present between them, fulfilling that which is written, 'You must cherish truth and peace.'"
Even though the disputes between the Schools of Shammai and Hillel involved very serious issues, still, they showed affection and friendliness towards each other. They did not accuse one another of sabotaging the Torah. Rather, each school honored the opinions of the other. These were two different philosophies, each with its own unique approach, yet they displayed affection and friendship towards each other. Their disagreements were not driven by ulterior motives, but were for the sake of Heaven, untainted by trivial personal considerations. These sorts of disagreements are desirable, for they help to clarify the truth.

Alternately, a disagreement that is driven by jealousy and contention, in which personal considerations are involved, is not for the sake of Heaven. The classic example of this sort of disagreement is the one which was employed by Korach and his followers (Numbers 16). One must remember that Korach and his followers were amongst the leaders of their generation. They were closely related to Moses and Aaron. They were leaders of the community and men of great importance. All the same, Korach and his followers were not interested in the sake of Heaven. They were motivated by nothing more than their own egos. This sort of dispute is a tragedy.

In light of all the above we can draw conclusions concerning our own times. There is no need to strive for complete agreement within Israel's religious public. Differing opinions are legitimate, but we must strive to bring a sense of affection between the different elements of the religious community. Our arguments must be purged of selfish considerations, adding to the clarification of the truth. We must show affection and demonstrate friendship toward one another, fulfilling that which is written, 'You must cherish truth and peace.'

A Humble Opinion
In disagreements of the sort that existed between the schools of Hillel and Shammai - the positions they held were irresolvable, and the Law could only tolerate one of them - a final decision must eventually be rendered. The Talmud itself relates:

Rabbi Abba said in the name of Shemuel, "The schools of Hillel and Shammai were in disagreement over an issue for three years, each one claiming, 'the law follows our opinion.' A Heavenly voice cried out saying, 'Both are the words of the living God, yet the law follows the school of Hillel.' But if both are the words of the living God, why did the school of Hillel merit having the law follow its opinion? Because they were pleasant and humble... what's more, they would present the opinion of their opponents before their own. from this we learn that God elevates he who belittles himself."

The lesson for our generation is as follows. Clearly there are true and sincere differences of opinion between the different groups that make up Israel's religious public. What's more, similar differences exist within each of these groups. Effort must be made to do away with trivial and selfish motives, purifying arguments so that they be entirely for the sake of Heaven. This can be accomplished by adding love, affection, and friendship towards each other, and by respecting each other. Once we have done this it will be possible to determine who is correct. As a result, the opposing side will willingly change its opinion, for each of the sides sincerely desires the truth.
If, at any rate, there remain differing opinions because both sides contain truth, then the law will follow the opinion of those who are more pleasant and humble, those who are willing to present the opinion of their opponents before their own, for God elevates he who belittles himself. It is for this we pray each day, "Bring peace...upon all of Israel, Your people."

Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh Yeshiva of the Bet El Yeshiva, was the head of the Yesha rabbis board and rabbi of Bet-El, founder and head of Arutz 7.
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