Jewish Texts and Learning



with special thanks to Rabbi Sheldon Lewis and
the Year of Civil Discourse Initiative
a project of the San Francisco JCRC, Jewish Community Federation, Board of Rabbis, and East Bay Federation

A Sacred Model of Conflict

A controversy for the sake of Heaven will have lasting value, but a controversy not for the sake of Heaven will not endure. What is an example of a controversy for the sake of Heaven? The debates of Hillel and Shammai. What is an example of a controversy not for the sake of Heaven? The rebellion of Korach and his associates. (Mishnah Avot 5:19)

Although the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel were in disagreement - what the one forbade, the other permitted – nevertheless, the House of Shammai did not refrain from marrying women [of the families] of the House of Hillel, nor did the school of Hillel refrain from marrying those of the House of Shammai. This should teach you that they showed love and friendship toward one another, thus putting into practice the injunction, “Love truth but also peace” (Zechariah 8:19). (Talmud Yevamot 14b)

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Year of Civil Discourse Ad - Text for Seder

YCD Ad for Seder

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Year of Civil Discourse Ad - Pre-Tisha B'av

Year of Civil Discourse Ad - Start of Campaign

Civil Discourse Ad December 19, 2010

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Rabbi Saul Berman

Rabbi Saul Berman


RAMBAM MISHNEH TORAH  Hilchot De'ot Chapter Six Translated by Eliyahu Touger



Halacha 5 Whoever hates a [fellow] Jew in his heart transgresses a Torah prohibition as [Leviticus 19:17] states: "Do not hate your brother in your heart." One is not [liable for] lashes for violating this prohibition because no deed is involved. The Torah only warns [us] against hating in [our] hearts. However, a person who beats a colleague or insults him, although he is not permitted to do so, does not violate [the prohibition,] "you shall not hate."

Halacha 6 When one person wrongs another, the latter should not remain silent and despise him as [II Samuel 13:22] states concerning the wicked: "And Avshalom did not speak to Amnon neither good, nor bad for Avshalom hated Amnon." Rather, he is commanded to make the matter known and ask him: "Why did you do this to me?", "Why did you wrong me regarding that matter?" as [Leviticus 19:17] states: "You shall surely admonish your colleague." If, afterwards, [the person who committed the wrong] asks [his colleague] to forgive him, he must do so. A person should not be cruel when forgiving [as implied by Genesis 20:17]: "And Abraham prayed to God..."

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Barry Shrage: Despising Strife and Loving Peace

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Despising Strife and Loving Peace

D’var Torah – Shavuot 2010, Congregation Shaarei Tefillah
by Barry Shrage

In the third month from the Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt, on this day, they arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai. They journeyed from Rephidim, and arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai and encamped in the Wilderness and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain (Exodus 19:1-2).

Rashi comments that the verbs for they arrived (ba-u), they journeyed (va'yis-u), they arrived (va'yavo-u), and they encamped (va'yachanu) are all plural. But when the text states: “Israel encamped there,” the Torah uses a singular verb (va'yichan). In a well known comment, Rashi notes that the encampment at Sinai was “like one person with one heart” (k'ish echad, b'lev echad), although until that point every encampment had been filled with complaining and rebellious Jews!
According to a commentary quoted by Rabbi Yissocher Frand:

Great is peace and unity for in connection with all the travels we find “They traveled,” “They camped,” indicating a multiplicity of opinions and strife. However when they came to Sinai, they camped in unity as it is written (singularly) “Israel encamped opposite the mountain.” The Almighty said, “Since they despised strife and loved peace and camped as one person, the time has come for Me to give them My Torah.”

Israel's encampment opposite the mountain was "k'ish ecahd, b'lev echad." There, the unity was created because of the love that bound the community together. Everyone felt they were brothers and sisters. This was real unity, not merely superficial unity to achieve a common agenda. This sense of identity of "k'ish echad" of course led to an identity of purpose as well – "b'lev echad."

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Am I my Brother's Keeper?

Messinger and Dorfman on Civility

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Judaism, Courtesy and Civility

USCJ-RA Judaism Courtesy and Civility

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Encounter's Quotes from Jewish Sources

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Encounter's Quotes from Jewish Sources

Who is wise? The one who learns from everyone, as it is said 'From all who would teach me, I have gained understanding.' 

-Pirkei Avot 4:1

Do not be confused by the many voices you hear; remember they all come from the one God. 

-Pesikta d'rav Kahane 12:25

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