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Truth Even Unto Its Innermost Parts

06/02/2021 09:56:04 PM

Jun2

Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

A few years ago I was engaged in a heated conversation with an old college friend, Bob. I was stridently expressing my position, until Bob completely disarmed me.

“So what you’re saying,” he said, “is that…”

I do not recall the topic of our conservation, but I do recall Bob’s willingness to patiently repeat my own thoughts back to me. Bob was not trying to trip me up in my own words. He was simply trying to understand my position.

Bob, who had studied in a yeshiva, must have been inspired by Rabbi Hillel, our first century sage. Hillel and his students were engaged in protracted debates with Rabbi Shammai and his students. Hillel taught his followers to articulate the arguments of their “opponents.”  Hillel did not merely want his views to prevail; he wanted his students to understand all sides of an issue, and he wanted the best result for all.

In last Sunday’s New York Times, columnist Ross Douthat mourned the lack of openness and intellectual honesty in our current discourse.  He wrote that news outlets, both liberal and conservative, succumb to “an impulse to tell the reader exactly what to think, lest by leaving anything ambiguous you gave an inch” to the other side. There are, he continued, “pressures to describe more and more things without any ambiguity and shading.”

The motto of Brandeis University, Bob’s and my alma mater, is “Truth Even Unto Its Innermost Parts.” The pursuit of truth is not well served by caricatures of complicated issues. It rather demands openness to other points of view. This is not always easy. But, l’shem ha’emet, for the sake of truth, it is imperative.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jeffrey Weill

Tue, August 3 2021 25 Av 5781