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[KE CyberTorah] Resilience and Jewish Wisdom, or Great Insults of the Talmud

Resilience and Jewish Wisdom, or Great Insults of the Talmud

I believe our best selves can always get along with someone else’s best self. When we are curious, genuinely interested in the other, all sorts of bridges can be built, all types of gaps overcome. Yet I’m interested in exploring: what about when we DON’T bring our best selves? What happens when we are impatient, unwilling to listen, certain of our own position?

Deuteronomy tells us how to act when we go to war, not if we go to war. That is, Torah understands that our ability to overcome disagreement is limited by our nature. For this reason, we are given rules of how to manage when it comes to violence. I wonder if those rules could be  extended when civil discourse collapses?

I love studies about civil discourse. The concept of machloket l’shem shamayim, disagreements of meaning, is a core element of Jewish wisdom. It reminds us to take stock of our ego when we get into a fight. It reminds us that our opponent can also be coming from a place of deep meaning and purpose. It invites genuine respect and curiosity.

However, such teachings can only take us so far because they are ignored even by the people who teach them more often than they are followed. We are created in the image of God and that image includes impatience, ego, and anger. That means we need teachings that help develop the resilience and culture that can hold together even when insult and demeaning language become heard or widespread.

Over my Sabbatical I began a project initially titled Great Insults of the Torah which has grown into a look at resilience and wisdom around insult. I am interested in why we have preserved stories of Rabbi’s being awful to each other and what the greater wisdom may be attained by studying these stories of breakdowns in discourse, respect and curiosity. 

I invite you to join me for four weeks of study on this new project. I am anxious to share and to get some input as I continue studying and writing. I will also share via CyberTorah some of the material.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Booth

Mon, May 16 2022 15 Iyyar 5782