Keeping the faith: This year, let’s learn to engage in a society of many different opinions – The Columbus Dispatch

Posted By on January 11, 2022

Rabbi Hillel Skolnik| Special to The Columbus Dispatch

It is an old joke within the Jewish community that if you put three people in a room, youll hear four opinions.

The comment works with any group size so long as the number of opinions is at least one greater than those gathered. While this attempt at humor has become clich, it is based on the fact that Jewish texts have been recording disagreements for hundreds of years.

The Talmud, a collection of rabbinic discourse that is dated to approximately the year 500, is literally a collection of disputes between the rabbis of third through fifth centuries. Sometimes these disagreements come to a conclusion and other times not.

It is now 2022, and I think it is safe to say that the reality on the ground has not changed.People, in whatever faith and values community they identify, will continue to have differences of opinion, just as the rabbis did long ago.

What has changedsignificantly and, in my opinion, not for the betteris how we act during those disagreements toward the people on the other side of the debate.

My name, Hillel, is the same as one of the most famous Jewish scholars of the times from before even the Talmud.Hillel the Elder was known to be wise, compassionate and to almost always disagree with his contemporary, Shammai.And yet, despite the fact that their opinions varied so greatly, they invariably treated each other with kindness and respect. Pupils of the two scholars still mingled, and marriages regularly took place between the two houses of study.

It would be difficult to imagine such a circumstance happening today when if often feels as though we can only talk tolet alone associate witha person who agrees with us on all accounts.People seem to walk around with a checklist of opinions to go through before deciding if it is even possible to strike up a conversation.

Agree about political party affiliation? Check.

Agree about religion and God? Check.

Agree about the effects of climate change? Check.

Agree about diet as a vegetarian vs. omnivore? Check.

Agree about who makes the best pizza in Columbus? Check.

Are there nonstarters?Without question.But is the list of nonstarters way too long? Without question.

We all lose out when we only converse with people who share our views.Society is weakened if we are only willing to stand next to a person who has passed our individualized litmus test of theiropinions.

We do not all need to agree on every single question.In fact, talking to someone with a differing view only helps to inform our own thoughts and assists in our abilities to vocalize our ideas. And every once in a while, a moment comes along that demands that we put our differences aside to stand together for something about which we agree.

Such an action can only be possible if ever find a way to talk to each other and to learn from one another. That is how change comes to our world.That is how our hyperpolarized society has a prayer of becoming a little better in this new year.

Rabbi Hillel Skolnik issenior rabbi atCongregation Tifereth Israelon the East Side.

Keeping the Faith is a column featuring the perspectives of a variety of faith leaders from the Columbus area.

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Keeping the faith: This year, let's learn to engage in a society of many different opinions - The Columbus Dispatch

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