We are here to improve our relationships with others
in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.
Last week’s Stretch of the week was: Think of someone you have felt jealous of in the past and work on feeling pleasure in his/her good fortune or accomplishments.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
AY Lesson #10
Avoiding Strife and Pursuing Peace -- Machlokes
The commandment that prohibits us from arguing with others (machlokes) is based on the following; “He shall not be like Korach and his congregation” (Bamidbar 17:5). Korach rebelled against Aaron and Moses after the spies went to survey the Promised Land due to a lack of faith in HaShem (G-d). Korach's difference with Moses may have been an ideological one, driven by the way in which he understood Israel's relationship with HaShem and regarding how he felt the nation should be organized. Nevertheless, he has been historically viewed as the ultimate quarreler. Had the motives of Korach and his supporters been truly for the sake of Heaven, they would have brought their doubts, fears, and questions directly to Moses instead of instigating collective strife.
Judaism teaches us that anyone who supports a disagreement also violates this mitzva. This includes both a person who instigates a fight between two people and one who furthers the conflict. When two people have a disagreement, the goal should be to resolve their differences. Unfortunately, “fighting it out” rarely serves as a catalyst to a peaceful resolution.
As soon as two people see that they are unable to negotiate a compromise, they should go to a third party who is acceptable to both of them for assistance. The third party might be a rabbi, mutual friend or colleague. If this option is not available, or if their efforts are unsuccessful, their next step should be to seek Jewish legal judgment. As the Torah advises, “When there is an argument between people, let them come to judgment” (Devarim 25:1).
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
There was a particular woman who lived in my town who I found unbelievably annoying. I don’t know what it was about her that irritated me so, but whenever I saw her I felt uncomfortable. We never had any confrontations. We never argued. Whether it was her gait, her style, or the look on her face, whenever I saw her, I just wanted to stay out of her way.
After awhile, it became obvious that she felt the same way about me. We established a silent “war” simply by ignoring each other. Admittedly, to my embarrassment, we carried on this way for years.
One day, all of this changed. I was sitting at my desk paying some bills when the doorbell rang. I answered the door with my intercom and, when I asked who was there, I heard this woman’s name. Immediately, I felt my heart race. I had no idea why she would be at my house. We don’t live in the same neighborhood and we had an unwritten pact not to have anything to do with each other.
Cautiously, I opened the door and saw this woman standing with a large beautifully wrapped box and matching bow. I looked at her with a puzzled face and she said, “Open it! It also has a card.”
I invited her in the house and, as we stood in my foyer, I opened the gift. It was a large box of expensive chocolates. I smiled and then quickly opened the card. “Whatever it was about, I don’t know. Let’s put it behind us and start anew!” she said.
I looked at her and smiled as we both erupted in laughter. The heavy silent war over absolutely nothing dissolved instantly. I thanked her for being the brave one to break the awkward silence. She told me she just couldn’t take it anymore and felt as if she had finally graduated from kindergarten. We laughed again, bid each other farewell, and have been friendly ever since.
Looking back I realized that I never really had anything against her at all. This entire silent “machlokes” was all subconscious. Usually conflict is direct, intentional, and fueled with emotion but sometimes it’s a result of internal personal prejudices and negativity. Today I try to assess why I treat some relationships with a big, bright smile and others with a solemn stare. If I focus on the fact that I only want peace in my life, I set a higher standard for my relationships and myself. This has helped me in all areas of my life and I owe it all to my courageous new friend.
In an argument, do most people look to win or seek the truth?
In what ways might the assistance of an objective third party help resolve a disagreement?
Do most people view conceding to the argument of another person as a sign of weakness or a sign of strength?
What can be done to decrease the amount of strife amongst the Jewish people?
Stretch of the Week:
Think of someone you tend to argue with and resolve to speak with him/her calmly on three consecutive occasions.