We have all heard about the rabbis Hillel and Shammai and their students, the House of Hillel and House of Shammai, who famously conducted their wide-ranging disagreements with respect and authentic desire for the common good. In our contentious society, it is hard to imagine community leaders disagreeing without attacking one another’s intelligence and integrity.
But the widely known version of the story of Hillel and Shammai is incomplete. The Talmud tells us that once, approximately two thousand years ago, the peaceful and constructive conflict between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai erupted into a violent and destructive battle over a vote on eighteen matters of law.
According to later rabbinic sources, these tragic events took place on the 9th of Adar and as many as 3,000 students died that day. (According to other sources, however, the 9th of Adar marks the first disagreement for the sake of Heaven between the rabbis. And even though the disagreement was for the sake of Heaven, it was still considered risky and potentially dangerous.)
Maybe this account of violence is historical. Or maybe this is a mythic story, a morality tale, to convey the truth that aggressive speech can actually be violent. The children’s nursery rhyme, asserting that “words can never hurt me,” is palpably untrue.
In our CONGREGATION/CAMPUS/ORGANIZATION, we will be joining with synagogues, schools, campuses, and Jewish organizations around the world in the fifth annual worldwide 9Adar: Jewish Week of Constructive Conflict, February 19-25, 2017. This year in Israel, Dibur Hadash: Israeli Week of Constructive Conflict will bring together a range of organizations that work year-round facilitating constructive conflict in interpersonal, inter-religious, and intra-Jewish contexts. In our CONGREGATION/CAMPUS/ORGANIZATION, we will use 9Adar as an opportunity to highlight the traditional Jewish values and practices of redifat shalom (pursuit of peace) and mahloket l’shem shamayim (disagreements for the sake of Heaven/constructive and sacred disagreement).
Please join us [INSERT SPECIFIC PROGRAMMING IN YOUR COMMUNITY]. May our efforts be a concrete expression of the prayers for peace we recite so often and so fervently. Oseh shalom bim’romav, Hu ya’aseh shalom, aleinu v’al kol Yisrael [v’al kol yoshvei teivel]. May the One who creates peace on high make peace for us, for all Israel, [and for all the peoples of the earth].