We don't always see eye to eye. This happens between partners, parents, and between parents and children. It also happens amongst the leaders of our congregation. Sometimes group decisions come easily and there is unanimity and at other times we wrestle with multiple perspectives. This is a good thing.
The rabbinic concept called "machloket l'shem shamayim" - a dispute for the sake of heaven - is described in our sacred text, the Mishnah. A dispute for the sake of heaven implies the presence of God or of sacred values guiding our conversations. It is a dispute where the goal is to bring about the greatest good, not to satisfy the demands of the ego. It is one in which all parties behave respectfully toward one another. Even as they disagree, they work to maintain strong, peaceful relationships. Their dialogue advances mutual understanding. Each party remains receptive to the other party’s opinion, and goodwill is exhibited.
Some say it is our nature to disagree. Many of us have heard the joke: two Jews, three opinions. Thoughtful people will present multiple points of view. But at times our own sight may be short-sighted.
Over my eighteen years here I have appreciated the overall tone of our discourse at Beth Israel. Our conversations are respectful and interesting, inviting dialogue and thoughtfulness. When we inevitably veer off course, we support one another to make the subtle course corrections necessary to resume productive conversation.
As we embark on a new year, let's remain open to multiple points of view in our community, in our workplace and with those who are nearest and dearest to us. And let's uphold the value of disagreement for the sake of heaven so that we grow in goodness, depth and wisdom in all of our relationships.