The Jewish definition of disagreement

A disagreement should be about the pursuit of truth, which demands engaging with and learning from the other side.
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In a world where facts themselves are being debated, having a healthy argument “for the sake of heaven” (each side contains some truth) is becoming harder and harder.

The English dictionary defines disagreement as a “lack of consensus or approval,” and the Talmud teaches that a healthy disagreement should involve:

  • Honoring the other side
  • Employing humility
  • Showing respect for the others

In other words, according to Jewish wisdom, a disagreement should be about the pursuit of truth, which demands engaging with and learning from the other side.

“When an argument is for the sake of truth, if I win, I win. But if I lose, I also win- because being defeated by the truth is the only form of defeat that is also a victory.”

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Adapted from Eruvin 13b:

“The Gemara asks: Since both these and those are the words of the living God, why were Beit Hillel privileged to have the halakha established in accordance with their opinion? The reason is that they were agreeable and forbearing, showing restraint when affronted, and when they taught the halakha they would teach both their own statements and the statements of Beit Shammai. Moreover, when they formulated their teachings and cited a dispute, they prioritized the statements of Beit Shammai to their own statements, in deference to Beit Shammai.”

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