Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use


2 Jews… 3 Opinions: Wisdom for Watching the Debates

A classic Jewish joke… When two Jews gather together, expect at least three opinions. Our tradition embraces debate and discussion. Argument becomes a vehicle to truth.


I confess, however, a frustration with the debates of today. In Judaism the purpose of debate is to find the truth. In politics the purpose of debate is to score points.

As we enter the final presidential debate, perhaps the following lessons from Jewish tradition can enrich the discussion. Here a few to consider:

1. Respect the other’s point of view, even if you vehemently disagree with it: Two early rabbis–Hillel and Shammai–disagreed on almost everything. Yet, when a ruling was made, the other assented. The losing position was recorded, in case changing circumstances demanded a new approach.

Later Jewish sages described the disagreements between Hillel and Shammai as “arguments for the sake of heaven.” They were not about scoring points. They were about finding what is true and enduring.

2. Use civil language: The media thrives on conflict. The sharper the words, the bigger the headlines. Society, on the other hand, thrives on relationships. The closer our bonds, the stronger we are.

Politics today is weakening those bonds. Anger has become a political weapon. Our harsh words perpetuate it. We see it on the Right and the Left. Each can use a refresher with the Book of Proverbs, which says brilliantly, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

3. Stop the Spin: Newt Minow, one of the creators of the Presidential Debate Commission, advised viewers to turn off their televisions immediately after the debate and decide for themselves who spoke more persuasively. I couldn’t agree more.

Jewish tradition teaches that parties to a contract need to understand clearly its terms and conditions. The importance of our decisions demand we understand what they mean and why they make them. The same is true in politics.

The spin may be entertaining, but it is not enlightening. We are smarter than the spinners, and the future rests in our hands.



Previous Posts

In the Wake of the Kansas City Horror: The Life-Saving Power of Interfaith Conversation
This post was written with my friend and colleague, Reverend Lillian Daniel.  The late great Abraham Joshua Heschel was once asked why he devoted so much time to interfaith dialogue. He answering by recounting part of his family history. “When the Nazis came for my parents,” he wrote,

posted 1:56:25pm Apr. 16, 2014 | read full post »

Sermon from the Mound: 7 Spiritual Truths from the Baseball Diamond
Sports are one of the great sources for spiritual insights. As a child, I remember paying extra attention when the rabbi used an illustration  from baseball or football. They helped me visualize and understand the spiritual lesson. Of all sports, baseball lends itself best to Jewish wisdom.

posted 3:53:17pm Apr. 06, 2014 | read full post »

The Perfect Diamond with a Scratch: A Story of Hope and Healing
This short story, first told in the 19th century, continues to bring comfort and healing. We can use it every day of our lives. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esDr_IdrhjQ

posted 9:57:01pm Feb. 27, 2014 | read full post »

Love Wins: 3 Spiritual Lessons from Disney's Frozen
I used to enjoy walking into a home of peace and quiet. Since the film Frozen premiered, I have lacked this simple pleasure. Its soundtrack seems to play on a continuous loop every day throughout our home. I guess that’s part of the price to pay for having two small children. As a glass h

posted 4:21:04pm Feb. 19, 2014 | read full post »

Date Night With God
A healthy marriage is sustained by consistency. It is not the big moments—the wedding day, the birth of a child, the new home. It is the acts of love and commitment expressed daily, weekly and year after year. Sustaining them is not always easy. One consistent practice I suggest to young parent

posted 6:28:55pm Feb. 10, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.