A tapestry

Sometimes a person will say “I may be wrong but…” Expressing an opinion is a frightening thing. We can’t both be right. Therefore either I’m right and that puts me into the threatening position of having to prove myself right and the other person wrong, or the other person is right and I don’t have anything worthwhile to say.

One of the impressive things about the Talmud is the importance given to opinions that were not accepted into the corpus of Jewish law. One explanation for why they are recorded is because we can think about the arguments and see that this one was rejected. That is not the only reason. They are given a space because there is something critically important to what they have to say.

Rabbi Yitzchak Hacohen Kook, the first chief rabbi of Israel and spiritual leader before the founding of the state shows in his writings again and again this principle of the meaning and importance of all of the perspectives. In his explanation to the prayer book, Olat Re’iyah, he explains the comment of the rabbis that Torah students increase peace in the world. How can they increase peace, he asks, when they are constantly arguing with each other? He answers that people are different and of necessity will see things differently. The different opinions and perspectives are inevitable and are wonderful because they make up a beautiful tapestry. It would not look very pretty if all the parts of the tapestry were exactly the same.

The reason this brings peace is because they recognize the value of one another’s opinion and feel that without this perspective something would be missing from the whole. Moreover, they are interested first and foremost in seeking the truth, and this gives them the humility to not care at all if their opinion turns out to not be the one that makes the most sense for practical purposes. On the theoretical plane it still makes sense and is a valuable contribution to understanding and painting the whole picture of life.

In a similar vein Frankl writes about the difference between the community, where each of the parts is unique and contributes to the beauty of the mosaic as opposed to the mass, where each of the individuals in it are coerced into being the same.

We can learn from this model in our everyday life.

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