MachloketLogo3 1

Session 1

Introduction & Jewish perspectives on Liberal Values
and Argument for the Sake of Heaven

Participants will be introduced to Jewish texts and writings that will lay the foundation in Jewish thought for open discourse and lead to the group’s cooperation in creating a safe and trusting atmosphere where complex ideas can be discussed in an open and respectful manner, l’shem shamayim, in order to make the world a better place. In each of the following sessions, we will be presenting challenging issues on race as “makhloket,” worthy of thoughtful and respectful dialogue and debate. Our objective is for participants to leave the course “confused at a higher level.”

Session1

Giant post-its, markers, tape, scissors, copies of Sources 1 & 2 (enough for all participants)

Setting up tech to show a video: Hillel and Shammai: Disagreements for the Sake of Heaven

https://youtu.be/aL9pok2a41o

and Angel Eduardo on his rhetorical tool: Star Manning, for the Activities portion of the session.

https://youtu.be/mPSPZGoQBAI

Read Rabbi Yitz Greenberg’s Essay Judaism and the Politics of Tikkun Olam

Read or watch Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, People of Central Synagogue on Third Opinion: Why Jews Value Dissent

R. Barry Block, Social Justice should not be controversial

Participants will know: 

  • Definitions of Makhloket, Liberalism, L’Shem shamayim
  • What Jewish texts and traditions say about makhloket.

Participants will be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of Jewish texts as they relate to makhloket l’shem shamayim.
  • Use Jewish texts to create a framework for makhloket l’shem shamayim to be used in further sessions and in general.

Enduring Understanding

  • Creating a sense of trust is paramount when delving into complex matters. 
  • The Talmud and Jewish texts can provide both a rationale for airing our disagreement on controversial issues and a framework on how to and how not to engage in a respectful and productive makhloket.
  • Arguments l’shem shamayim/in the name of heaven are constructive conflicts that may be passionate and heated, but ultimately allow for a healthy exchange of views and learning
  • Liberalism encourages open and respectful discussion, not the shutting down of ideas that are different from our own.
  • There is more than one way to think about and address complex social problems.
  • It’s important that we carve out space in our society and in our communities to have these challenging conversations.

Essential Questions

  • Why have classical liberal values (free expression of ideas, etc)  been traditionally important to Jews? To America?
  • What do Jewish texts and traditions say about makhloket? How do they model how and how not to address conflicting ideas? 
  • How is the idea of makhloket l’shem shaymin different from much of today’s society’s mode of conversation on race and other sensitive social issues?.
  • What might be limits of free speech and open discussion?
  • Where do you feel most comfortable sharing your ideas and opinions? Least comfortable?

Activity

Explain to participants that you all will be using Jewish texts and writings as guides for creating the group’s “primer” to carve out a space to address the challenging and complex topics that will be addressed further into the course. In the upcoming sessions, the group will engage in makhloket that are truly l’shem Shamayim – constructive conflicts that may be passionate and heated but ultimately allow for a healthy exchange of views and learning. 

Each group should watch YouTube video: Angel Eduardo – Star Manning

Have each group star man each of the three topics below. Each group should select a note taker so they are able to present to the larger group.

Support Oppose
Affirmative Action
School Choice
Legalization of Marijuana

Each group will look at source 1 (Pirkei Avot 5:17) – and explore these questions:

  • What do Jewish texts and traditions say about makhloket? How do they model how and how not to address conflicting ideas? 
  • How is the idea of makhloket l’shem shaymin different from much of today’s society’s mode of conversation on race and other sensitive social issues?.”

 Afterward,  have the group prepare for adding to their Sage Advice for Meaningful Makhloket collection by exploring the short essay by Leon Wieseltier (Source 2)