Machloket L’Shem Shalom

Joe Gamse

  • Joe, do you believe?
  • Yes Joe, I believe. Joe, do you believe?
  • Yes Joe, I believe.*

‘But what do we believe in?’

There are two ways of answering this question. The first is what anyone who’s had any involvement in BA, from a chanicha on Aleph to the former mazkir, will have heard in their head after reading the exchange above. It’s an answer beautiful in its simplicity, powerful in its clarity, and vital in the sense of purpose that it gives our movement. In three words, we sum up everything that unites us as a collective.

The second answer, in the best Jewish tradition, instead poses more questions. How do our beliefs relate to each other, and do they ever clash? Should our ideals be applied as they were in past decades and centuries, or do changing circumstances demand a different approach? Is our trio of values an exhaustive list, or should we have other considerations too?

And fundamentally, what do those three little words – Torah, Avodah and Aliyah – even mean?

Typically, these debates are sparked by a controversial motion at Veidah or a heated madrichim’s meeting. Tempers flare; opposing views are expressed with equal passion and eloquence. And then everyone goes back to planning the Murder Mystery Tochnit or making tziud in the middle of the night, and ideological discussion takes a back seat, perhaps only to be rekindled months later.

The hallmark of a healthy movement, though, is vigorous and continual debate. Confronted with an opposing opinion, we are forced to reappraise and refine our own ideas. It is through an honest and frank exchange of views that we come to understand the perspective of the other, whether or not we are ultimately convinced by their arguments.  In restarting Yediot, we aim to create a space where these discussions can take place throughout the year, where different perspectives on Judaism and Zionism can provoke thought and reflection.

In an article on the concept of Machloket L’Shem Shamayim, R’ Ronen Neuwirth of Beit Hillel quotes Rav Kook:

יש טועים שחושבים, שהשלום העולמי לא יבנה כי אם ע”י צביון אחד בדיעות ותכונות, וא”כ כשרואים תלמידי חכמים חוקרים… וע”י המחקר מתרבים הצדדים והשיטות, חושבים שבזה הם גורמים למחלוקת והפך השלום. ובאמת אינו כן, כי השלום האמתי אי אפשר שיבוא לעולם כי אם דוקא ע”י הערך של ריבוי השלום… שיתראו כל הצדדים וכל השיטות, ויתבררו איך כולם יש להם מקום, כל אחד לפי ערכו, מקומו ועניינו. (עולת ראי”ה ח”א ע של)

Some mistakenly think, that worldwide peace can only be achieved through one set of opinions and attributes, and so when they see Talmidei Chachamim investigating matters…and that, through their investigations, the number of approaches and aspects grows, they think that they bring about Machloket and the opposite of peace. But in reality this is not so, as real peace can only come to the world through the principle of ‘multiplicity of peace’…when all of the aspects and approaches will be seen, and it will become clear how each of them have a place, each one according to its value, position and point…

Not only is it possible for multiple contradictory ideas to coexist peacefully; it is the only path to true peace. The link is often made between Shalom (‘peace’) and Sh’lemut (‘wholeness’). R Kook’s words seem to suggest that the way to gain a fuller understanding of the world and each other is by allowing a context for different ideas to thrive. A plurality of subjective views is far more useful than one masquerading as objective truth.

Great pieces of music include more than one melodic line; sometimes harmonious, sometimes discordant, often responding to each other, the multiplicity of voices combine to create something far greater than any individual instrument could. Similarly, a community becomes far more dynamic and powerful when its diverse constituent voices express themselves. In restarting Yediot, we hope to create a forum in which this is possible.

We look forward to listening.

*This exchange definitely happened on H-Course.

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