Limmud Values - Diversity and Arguing for the Sake of Heaven

“The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognize God's image in someone who is not in my image, who language, faith, ideal, are different from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing him to remake me in his.” - Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference

(א) כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשׁ לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה ס) וְעַמֵּךְ כֻּלָּם צַדִּיקִים לְעוֹלָם יִירְשׁוּ אָרֶץ נֵצֶר מַטָּעַי מַעֲשֵׂה יָדַי לְהִתְפָּאֵר. וְאֵלּוּ שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, הָאוֹמֵר אֵין תְּחִיַּת הַמֵּתִים מִן הַתּוֹרָה, וְאֵין תּוֹרָה מִן הַשָּׁמָיִם, וְאֶפִּיקוֹרֶס...

All Jews have a share in the World to Come, as it says, (Isaiah 60:21), “Thy people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.” These have no share in the World to Come: One who says that [the belief of] resurrection of the dead is not from the Torah, [one who says that] that the Torah is not from Heaven, and one who denigrates the Torah....

Chavrusa, also spelled chavruta or havruta (Aramaic: חַבְרוּתָא, lit. "friendship" or "companionship"), is a traditional rabbinic approach to Talmudic study in which a pair of students analyze, discuss, and debate a shared text.

(יז) כָּל מַחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, אֵין סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. אֵיזוֹ הִיא מַחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, זוֹ מַחֲלֹקֶת הִלֵּל וְשַׁמַּאי. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, זוֹ מַחֲלֹקֶת קֹרַח וְכָל עֲדָתוֹ:

(17) Every dispute that is for the sake of Heaven, will in the end endure; But one that is not for the sake of Heaven, will not endure. Which is the controversy that is for the sake of Heaven? Such was the controversy of Hillel and Shammai. And which is the controversy that is not for the sake of Heaven? Such was the controversy of Korah and all his congregation.

(א) כָּל מַחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. כְּלוֹמַר שֶׁאַנְשֵׁי הַמַּחֲלֹקֶת הַהִיא מִתְקַיְּמִים וְאֵינָם אוֹבְדִין, כְּמַחֲלֹקֶת הִלֵּל וְשַׁמַּאי שֶׁלֹּא אָבְדוּ לֹא תַּלְמִידֵי בֵּית שַׁמַּאי וְלֹא תַּלְמִידֵי בֵּית הִלֵּל. אֲבָל קֹרַח וַעֲדָתוֹ אָבְדוּ. וַאֲנִי שָׁמַעְתִּי, פֵּרוּשׁ סוֹפָהּ, תַּכְלִיתָהּ הַמְבֻקָּשׁ מֵעִנְיָנָהּ. וְהַמַּחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, הַתַּכְלִית וְהַסּוֹף הַמְבֻקָּשׁ מֵאוֹתָהּ מַחֲלֹקֶת לְהַשִּׂיג הָאֱמֶת, וְזֶה מִתְקַיֵּם, כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ מִתּוֹךְ הַוִּכּוּחַ יִתְבָּרֵר הָאֱמֶת, וּכְמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמַחֲלֹקֶת הִלֵּל וְשַׁמַּאי שֶׁהֲלָכָה כְּבֵית הִלֵּל. וּמַחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, תַּכְלִית הַנִּרְצֶה בָּהּ הִיא בַּקָּשַׁת הַשְּׂרָרָה וְאַהֲבַת הַנִּצּוּחַ, וְזֶה הַסּוֹף אֵינוֹ מִתְקַיֵּם, כְּמוֹ שֶׁמָּצִינוּ בְּמַחֲלֹקֶת קֹרַח וַעֲדָתוֹ שֶׁתַּכְלִית וְסוֹף כַּוָּנָתָם הָיְתָה בַּקָּשַׁת הַכָּבוֹד וְהַשְּׂרָרָה וְהָיוּ לְהֶפֶךְ:

(1) Every argument that is for [the sake of] heaven's name, it is destined (literally, its end is) to endure: That is to say that the [parties to] the argument are destined to endure and not perish, as with the argument between Hillel and Shammai, [whereby] neither the students of the School of Hillel nor the students of the School of Shammai perished. But Korach and his congregation perished. And I heard the explanation of “its end” is its purpose that is sought from its subject. And [with] the argument which is for the sake of Heaven, the purpose and aim that is sought from that argument is to arrive at the truth, and this endures; like that which they said, "From a dispute the truth will be clarified," and as it became elucidated from the argument between Hillel and Shammai - that the law was like the school of Hillel. And [with] argument which is not for the sake of Heaven, its desired purpose is to achieve power and the love of contention, and its end will not endure; as we found in the argument of Korach and his congregation - that their aim and ultimate intent was to achieve honor and power, and the opposite was [achieved].

נח נפשיה דר' שמעון בן לקיש והוה קא מצטער ר' יוחנן בתריה טובא אמרו רבנן מאן ליזיל ליתביה לדעתיה ניזיל רבי אלעזר בן פדת דמחדדין שמעתתיה אזל יתיב קמיה כל מילתא דהוה אמר רבי יוחנן אמר ליה תניא דמסייעא לך אמר את כבר לקישא בר לקישא כי הוה אמינא מילתא הוה מקשי לי עשרין וארבע קושייתא ומפריקנא ליה עשרין וארבעה פרוקי וממילא רווחא שמעתא ואת אמרת תניא דמסייע לך אטו לא ידענא דשפיר קאמינא הוה קא אזיל וקרע מאניה וקא בכי ואמר היכא את בר לקישא היכא את בר לקישא והוה קא צוח עד דשף דעתיה [מיניה] בעו רבנן רחמי עליה ונח נפשיה

Ultimately, Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, Reish Lakish, died. Rabbi Yoḥanan was sorely pained over losing him. The Rabbis said: Who will go to calm Rabbi Yoḥanan’s mind and comfort him over his loss? They said: Let Rabbi Elazar ben Pedat go, as his statements are sharp, i.e., he is clever and will be able to serve as a substitute for Reish Lakish.

Rabbi Elazar ben Pedat went and sat before Rabbi Yoḥanan. With regard to every matter that Rabbi Yoḥanan would say, Rabbi Elazar ben Pedat would say to him: There is a ruling which is taught in a baraita that supports your opinion. Rabbi Yoḥanan said to him: Are you comparable to the son of Lakish? In my discussions with the son of Lakish, when I would state a matter, he would raise twenty-four difficulties against me in an attempt to disprove my claim, and I would answer him with twenty-four answers, and the halakha by itself would become broadened and clarified. And yet you say to me: There is a ruling which is taught in a baraita that supports your opinion. Do I not know that what I say is good? Being rebutted by Reish Lakish served a purpose; your bringing proof to my statements does not. Rabbi Yoḥanan went around, rending his clothing, weeping and saying: Where are you, son of Lakish? Where are you, son of Lakish? Rabbi Yoḥanan screamed until his mind was taken from him, i.e., he went insane. The Rabbis prayed and requested for God to have mercy on him and take his soul, and Rabbi Yoḥanan died.