With the statement “these and those are both the words of the living God,” the Talmud teaches us about pluralism—that two contradictory opinions can be valid at the same time, and that we thrive when we give space to different perspectives.
This is an idea very much on my mind as we navigate our community’s commitment to make our world a better place. I’m proud of our congregation’s activism; on Israel, racial justice, gun violence, welcoming the stranger, and many other issues. Yet, I wonder: Are we engaging in dialogue in a way that enables each of us to, in the words of one of TBE’s educators: find our voice, feel valued, and be a part of a community that explores what it means to be human, together?
In the world, and even here at TBE, we can sometimes talk over each other. Respectful dissent, from the rabbis of the Talmud, to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is an integral part of who we are as Jews. It moves us forward as a people. Yet, I can’t help feeling that we can all do better at creating space for “these and those,” and I invite you to join me in that journey.
This month, we are renewing our efforts around dialogue and discourse as we launch a class on this very topic! Rabbi Emily Langowitz, who grew up here at TBE, will lead us through Jewish text, history, and personalities that provide models for navigating increasingly polarized personal and civil dialogue.
We have a lot to learn from our Jewish texts where our dissenting opinions are not written in a separate section, or blog post, or talk show, but woven right into the text. It’s not just that we can’t ignore each other, but in the Talmud, the prevailing opinion and the dissent are in relationship with one another. That “Both/And” commitment to community, and to each other has enabled our people to not just to survive, but to thrive. I look forward to our deepening conversations.