Let’s Agree to Disagree

When God informs Abraham that He will destroy Sodom, Abraham argues with God and tries to “bargain” with Him. Abraham starts by asking God “will You even destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (Genesis 18, 23). Abraham then proceeds to ask God if there are fifty righteous people in Sodom will God destroy it? When God responds that He will not, Abraham then decreases the number to forty five until finally Abraham gets to number ten and then and only then, Abraham “releases” God and the angels proceed to go to Sodom and eventually destroy it.

Abraham, who was our first forefather, taught us a lesson of social justice and care for humanity. Even though Abraham had nothing in common with the nation of Sodom, he understood that they were human beings who were created in the image of God. Therefore, he felt responsible for them, thus trying to save them. 

If Abraham stood up for people he had nothing in common with, how much more so we have to care and respect people who we have things in common with even though we do not always see eye to eye. 

Two great Hachamim who epitomized this idea were Ribbi Baruch Toledano and Ribbi Yosef Messas. Both of them worked together at the Beth Din, the Rabbinical Court of Meknes, Morocco. Ribbi Baruch was the Head of the Beth Din and Ribbi Yosef was one of the judges. 

Once, an interesting question rose up. Before France ruled Morocco, the doors of the Mellah, the Jewish Quarter, were locked at night. However, after France invaded Morocco, the Mellah’s doors were kept unlocked thus giving more liberty to the Jews to come in and out from the Mellah. The rabbis were asked if the fact that the doors would stay unlocked, would pose an issue with Tiltul B’Shabbat, carrying on Shabbat in a public domain which is one of the thirty nine labors forbidden on Shabbat.  

Ribbi Baruch’s opinion was to prohibit carrying on Shabbat, while Ribbi Yosef permitted it. 

Even though their opinion differed, both Hachamim kept their admiration and respect for each other as it is recorded in the Responsa book of Ribbi Baruch. Ribbi Baruch called Ribbi Yosef “the famous rabbi who illuminates the world with his Torah, and who is well known by the masses.” 

Ribbi Yosef as well praised Ribbi Baruch calling him “the holy Av Beth Din, who has a special place in my heart, the great Torah luminary, may he live long and peaceful life.” 

A second example of agreeing to disagree, took place in Morocco in 1945. The Chief Rabbis of Morocco realized that with transportation advancement, Jews started to either visit or move to different cities thus causing the Jews from different communities to be exposed to Jewish traditions, customs and laws they were not accustomed with. The Rabbis took an unprecedented decision to unify Moroccan Jewry by standardizing Jewish law and custom. In order to do so, the Rabbis convened the Chief Rabbis of all the cities for a yearly meeting in Rabat, where every Chief Rabbi of a city presented one suggestion of a rule or law he wanted to implement for the entire Moroccan Jewry.  The suggestion was discussed by the rabbis present and then voted upon, either accepting or declining it according to the majority. 

Although the rabbis often disagreed with each other, everything was done respectfully, and every Rabbi  honored those rulings by implementing them in his city, even if he voted against it. 

The American citizens recently voted for the senate and Israel voted for a new government. Unfortunately, both countries are divided with each party accusing the other party of wrongdoing. According to recent studies, both Israeli and American citizens expressed that the most urgent matter that their government should deal with is to find ways to unite the nation. Wouldn’t it be nice if both the winning and losing parties would respect each other and work together for the greater good of the nation? 

Let us all follow in the footsteps of our great Hachamim, sometimes agreeing to disagree but doing it with grace, kindness and dignity for each other. 

He Who makes the peace in His high places – may He, in His compassion, make peace for us and for His entire nation (and the entire world). Amen

About the Author
Rabbi Ilan Acoca was born in Israel and is from Moroccan descent. He is the Rabbi of Congregation Bet Yosef, Fort Lee, NJ, Rav Beit Hasefer, Ben Porat Yosef, Paramus, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Beth Hamidrash, Vancouver, BC, Canada and a member of the executive of the Rabbinical Council of America. Member of Metivta Sephardic Educational Center Author of the book “The Sephardic Book of Why”
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