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Yesterday's Fabulous Jewish Holiday You've Never Heard Of

04/20/2016 05:00:47 PM


February 19th, 2016
10 Adar 1 5776
Dear Friends,

The best Jewish holiday you've never heard of happens once a year, on the 9th of Adar, which was yesterday. What is it, you ask, and why is it so fabulous? Good questions.

Yesterday was the 9th of Adar, which is now known as the Jewish Day of Constructive Conflict. Several thousand years ago, there were two main schools of Jewish law, the school of the house of Shammai and the school of the house of Hillel. The Talmud records many debates between the two schools, and many sources tell us that even though they disagreed on almost everything, and even though the law follows the school of the House of Hillel on all but a few cases, the two schools still managed to learn from one another, eat in each others homes, interact healthily and civilly towards one another and recognize each other as part of the same community. 

Until one 9th of Adar, when relations between them took a violent turn and almost 3,000 students were killed. The day was said to be as tragic to the Jewish people as the day the golden calf was created. Our sages declared the day to be a day of fasting and mourning, though it was never observed as such.

Recently, the 9th of Adar has had some positive developments.
On the 9th of Adar, 1992, Israeli law recognized mediation and alternative dispute resolution. In 2013, the Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution declared the 9th of Adar to be the Jewish Day of Constructive Conflict, and now the 2nd through the 9th of Adar is known as the Jewish Week of Constructive Conflict.

For those unaware of Pardes, the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies is a pluralistic yeshiva in Jerusalem which I had the pleasure of spending a year at, as did Geo and Sarah this past year. One of their professors, Rabbi Daniel Roth, who is also an Israeli lawyer and conflict negotiator, is the mastermind behind the Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution, which trains people to walk in the ways of Aaron, Moses's brother, who was known as a Rodef Shalom, a Pursuer of Peace. 

The 9th of Adar is a day in which we can examine whether our lives are as peaceful as we'd like them to be. When we disagree with others, do we debate the issues or do we attack them? When we argue, do we try to win or do we try to solve problems (and is that the same)? Do we really listen to the other side? Are we open to the idea that we're wrong or that we can both be right?

To see a short, cute video about the 9th of Adar, click here:
To find more resources on Judaism and Conflict Resolution, 

Anyone who watches what passes for presidential debates in our country knows that many of our debates are far from constructive. Tearing others down may make for good ratings, but seems completely antithetical towards building community (or showing true leadership skills). Many of us also watched with sadness how quickly Justice Scalia's death became mired in partisan rancor. I'm not saying people aren't entitled to have strongly-held beliefs or that they shouldn't make them known. I wish all politicians and leaders had said that in deference to Justice Scalia and his impact on the Supreme Court, no discussion of his replacement would be held until a week after Justice Scalia's funeral, so that our country and his family could have a moment to pause and to honor his work before thinking about who might replace him.

Am I too optimistic to think that respect for the dead should or could trump the partisan divide? Probably. And yet, has anyone been served by listening to all the politicians and pundits arguing about what should happen next? I don't think so.

Learning how to be a pursuer of peace is a lifelong journey. I had the pleasure of learning with Rabbi Roth at Pardes. I rememebr thinking that healthy disagreement and tolerance for others views is like a muscle that not enough people exercise. We live in a country (and world) where we are so quick to tear down those we disagree with. It saddens me that so many of our "leaders" don't even make the effort to put themselves into the shoes of those they disagree with. Today, we need bridge-builders and pursuers of peace more than ever. 

I remember a quote from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who said that we must pursue war as if there is no peace, and we must pursue peace as if there is no war. A proper dose of both is necessary - i don't think we're close to what he had in mind. We seem to place war and conflict and disagreement in front of peace on too many occasions.

So let us be peacemakers. Let us listen and look for the sparks of holiness even and especially in those we disagree with. Let us exercise our muscles of tolerance, forgiveness, healing, and compassion. Of course, we must also extend those same muscles to ourselves! Too many of us are just as good at beating ourselves up as we are at beating up others. Torah is clear - we much treat others as we wish to treat ourselves, and I dare say most of us can to better in both regards.

Wishing us all a Shabbat of peace, of appreciation for our differences in the world, or curiosity for the opinions of others, and of healing the disagreements that too often tear us apart. May we be nourished by one another, and may we nourish each other with the light of Torah, kindness, friendship, and joy.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Ilan

Sat, July 4 2020 12 Tammuz 5780