Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Controversy for the Sake of Heaven"

Today's post is lifted straight out of Keren Hannah Pryor's "Taste of Torah," a weekly email that goes out to a mailing list. It fits in quite nicely with some of the debates we've had online and offline.

    “Controversy for the Sake of Heaven”

    Pirkei Avot (The Sayings [or Ethics] of the Fathers) is a compact and outstanding collection of ancient Jewish wisdom. Avot 5:16 states: “An example of a controversy for the sake of heaven is a disagreement between Hillel and Shammai, while one that is not for the sake of heaven is the argument of Korach and his followers.” Hillel and Shammai were renowned rabbis of the Second Temple period. Each founded a school devoted to Torah learning and the expounding of halachah (the detailed oral laws and observances that govern daily life). Traditionally Beit Shammai (the school, or literally the House, of Shammai) held to stricter, more conservative rulings, whereas Beit Hillel was more flexible in its decisions. In general the rulings of Hillel prevailed.

    Yeshua was a contemporary of the revered grandson of Hillel, Rabbi Gamaliel (of whom the apostle Paul was a student), and Yeshua’s teachings reflected many of Beit Hillel’s views. Although Hillel and Shammai disagreed on many complicated spiritual issues, it is recorded that they still met as friends and at times enjoyed Shabbat dinners together. Their dispute was based on respect and friendship, and thus honored God.

    The heart of this type of positive disagreement is that the parties involved each “Love truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19). The distinctive elements of a controversy for the sake of Heaven may be described as follows:

    1) The aim of the process is the search for truth and justice in accord with the will and Word of God.
    2) The dialogue does not preclude or endanger the possibility of “loving one another” at its conclusion and thereafter.
    3) The result should be the establishing of deeper relationship with God and one another in friendship, shalom, peace and love.

Positive disagreement. For those of us that enjoy debate, but also enjoy love and peace, this is a wonderful reminder. The reason we discuss church, religion, and philosophy to the extent that we do, is that it is very important to us. Most of us are striving to find the "will and Word of God," and we wouldn't be so passionate about it otherwise.

Having disputes that can still be based on respect, friendship, and love can, indeed, honor God.


Joe B said...

Subscribe. She's awesome.(Be taught by a woman! It's wicked!)

Big Doofus said...

This is stupid and so are you!

(please note: sarcasm, irony, me attempting to be funny, me being stupid, me refusing to use capital letters in this note)

Joe B said...

I think this has gotten entirely out of hand, and these personal attacks are out of place on a blog that professes blah blah blah...

(Ooooh, I've always wanted to do that!)