Rabbi Yosef Chaim Ben Eliyahu on Reconciliation

September 6, 2012 by Shelly

Dear Friends,

Ever since completing my book, I have continued to find new and rich sources in Jewish tradition that speak to the theme of reconciliation. I knew that would be the case. No Book is big enough to contain all the teachings on peacemaking and reconciliation!  The blog is a perfect place for me to share these sources with you. I would also welcome learning from you similar sources that inspire you.

In an early rabbinic teaching in the name of Rabbi Eleazar who taught in the name of Rabbi Chanina:  “Students of the sages (Talmidei Chachamim) add peace to the world.” (Talmud Brachot 64a)

Rabbi Yosef Chaim Ben Eliyahu in the 19th Century comments in his work Ben Yehoyada:

“As long as there is humility among the sages in which every one sees oneself as a “student” vis a vis one’s fellows , there will not be conflict and argument between them; rather there will be peace. This would  not be  true when everyone sees himself  as “master” (“rav”) over against others. Then there would surely be argument, and each one would contradict the other. They would not then learn Torah for its own sake. For this reason we find (Rabbi Eleazar teaching) “students of the sages” meaning those that see themselves always as “students” even though they are great sages. These add peace in the world in that there would be no argument among them.” (Ben Yehoyada, Volume I, comment on Berachot 64a)

I don’t think Rabbi Yosef means that there would not be differences of opinion, even passionate differences. Debate is the stuff of rabbinic discourse. Rather I believe he is pointing to an attitude of the interlocutors as  continual students in which one is always open to hear the views of others and even to change one’s perspective as a result.  Even as a seasoned, lifelong learner and sage, one can still learn from others! Imagine if we treated our differences in this mutually respectful way!

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