Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Ego or Principle?

Rabbi Jay M. Stein on Sunday, December 2, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 5:17 

EVERY CONTROVERSY THAT IS lN THE NAME OF HEAVEN, THE END THEREOF IS [DESTINED] TO RESULT IN SOMETHING PERMANENT; BUT ONE THAT IS NOT IN THE NAME OF HEAVEN, THE END THEREOF IS NOT [DESTINED] TO RESULT IN SOMETHING PERMANENT.

WHICH IS THE [KIND OF] CONTROVERSY THAT IS IN THE NAME OF HEAVEN? SUCH AS WAS THE CONTROVERSY BETWEEN HILLEL AND SHAMMAI; AND WHICH IS THE [KIND OF] CONTROVERSY THAT IS NOT IN THE NAME OF HEAVEN? SUCH AS WAS THE CONTROVERSY OF KORAH AND ALL HIS CONGREGATION.

We have a disagreement with another person that results in a lasting divide.  When we look back on the argument we often find we can’t even remember what the conflict was about.  To which, we realize it wasn’t all that important in the first place. We have important disagreements as well.  True differences of opinion that create a certain and necessary divide. Principles are important, values make a difference and we need to stand up for what we believe.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of controversies fall in between these two extremes and trying to determine when we ought let go and when we ought to hold on to the grudge is difficult.

Our Mishna teaches that we must take our egos out of the equation. We must search within and decide why are we arguing.  Are just trying to make a point in order to prove we are smarter, stronger or is it really about the principle? This question must be asked and answered honestly. The result will be greater understanding of self and community.