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Is Unity Possible?

Moshe Unger - Columnist
Posted 2/11/21

I want to relay an interesting question and answer that I heard from one of my mentors, Rabbi Meir Schiller, from Monsey, NY. It's about Jewish Unity and I'll apply it to unity in the whole …

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Is Unity Possible?

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I want to relay an interesting question and answer that I heard from one of my mentors, Rabbi Meir Schiller, from Monsey, NY. It's about Jewish Unity and I'll apply it to unity in the whole country.

In the Jewish Community, even within the Orthodox Community, there are disagreements in important areas. Some disagreements relate to practices, some to beliefs, and some on how to balance modernity.

Rabbi Schiller points out that many of the proponents of unity don't seem to realize the importance of the disagreements. The cliché, “We have much more commonalities than disagreements” sometimes minimizes the importance of the disagreements.

If one side believes that the other side adopted practices that will endanger Jewish Continuity or Jewish Education, can they really just agree to disagree? They are extremely concerned and bothered by the potential dangerous results of the other side's position?

He said that for many years he maintained that comprehensive unity is not possible. It is only possible on an individual level, to love your fellow person, but it's not possible to tolerate positions that one believes are dangerous.

Upon further delving into the subject he discovered an answer. Unity is possible in the realm of intentions. Meaning, two sides can come to appreciate that the other side's intentions are pure, even if they believe the approach is dangerous.

For example, there are big divisions within Orthodox Judaism how to balance modernity. With some not using smartphones outside of work and some who use technology freely as long as it's filtered from dirty stuff.

To minimize the difference is really not realizing the importance of the difference. However, it's still possible to maintain that both sides have the right intention of coming to a balance between modernity and protection.

When we highlight the fact that both sides have the right intentions and have the same goal of reaching the right balance we can unite and come to appreciate each other, not just on an individual basis but also with the positions the other side takes.

I'm writing this because I think it carries lessons for the country as a whole. There are many good calls for unity, and we are very lucky to live in a country that unity is an important goal. Let's remember that politicians are not angels and they talk what people want to hear. If the politicians talk about unity they know that people want to hear it.

We should be very grateful that most people want unity.

At the same time, calls for unity that carry within them a minimization of the concerns and disagreements of each side are not productive. The disagreements are important.

The way for unity is to appreciate that the other position does not have bad intentions and is concerned with exactly the same problems. They might serve a different demographic and a different reality or they might have a different approach to the same issues.

In most cases both sides can appreciate and even agree to the importance of the underlying views of the other side. I'm troubled when people on the Left question the Right's sanity or when people on the Right question the Left's loyalty.

The work of a person who really wants to have a complete picture of the views is to weigh in their minds the counterarguments. What would the other side say to this? It's not easy but it's very fulfilling.

Also, it will not make the person less believing in their own positions and beliefs. I find it to be just the opposite, by considering both sides, a person comes to appreciate what they really try to defend and what they truly stand for.

May we hear only good news!

Comments? Email me: moshe@mosheunger.com.

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