Why is it so hard to solve long standing conflicts both between individual people and between different groups? A Hassidic Rabbi, well known for his stress on personal honesty, has a good insight to add to a classic Midrash on human nature.
This midrash was inspired by the question, “who is God speaking to when God says in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make the earthling (Adam) in our image, like us…” but it also meant to teach a powerful lesson about the difficulty of conflict resolution.
Rabbi Simon said, “When the Holy One, blessed be He, came to create Adam, the ministering angels formed themselves into groups and parties, some of them saying, ‘Let him be created,’ whilst others urged, ‘let him not be created.’
Loving kindness said, ‘Let him be created, because he will do acts of love and kindness;’ Truth said, ‘Let him not be created, because he is compounded of falsehood;’
Righteousness said, ‘Let him be created, because he will perform righteous deeds;’ Peace said, ‘Let him not be created, because he is full of strife.’
What did the Holy One do? God took Truth and cast it to the ground.” (Genesis Rabbah, 8:5)
The “us” according to this midrash are four important abstract ideals and religious principles, who are personified as ministering angels.
Two of the abstract ideals angels can’t foresee anything good coming from the creation of humanity which, unlike them will have free will, and thus be capable of choosing a moral or an immoral life.
God is so committed to this human “project” that The Holy One is willing to “throw Truth to the ground”, in order for humanity to exist.
For God, letting go of “Truth” – capital “T” – is no small thing, but God realizes that if God wants a partner, or at least a free moral regent or agent on earth, that is what must happen.
The Kotzker Rebbe poses an interesting question: “What good would it do to only banish the Truth. Peace, which had also argued against the creation of human beings, still remained.”
The answer is that in banishing the Truth, peace is ensured since the root of most conflict is that everyone battles for his or her own truth, which means his or her own interests and ego. This makes it very difficult to see other peoples needs or feelings.
What we do not admit, or even see, is that what we really mean when we talk about “the Truth” is, ‘I should get my way because my view is true.’
Without the lightning rod of “the Truth”, it is much more likely that humans can embrace empathy, tolerance and patience for others. These qualities are much more likely than ‘the Truth’ to lead us to peace.
Then we may find that “Chesed and emet will meet together; tzedek and shalom will kiss each other.” (Psalm 85:10) And only after this will “Truth spring up from the Earth, and Righteousness look down from heaven.” (85:11)