Saturday, May 28th | 27 Iyyar 5782

October 17, 2013 12:17 pm

We Must Work Together, Even When We Disagree

avatar by Yisroel Glick

Capitol Hill. Photo: Wiki Commons.

According to an old legend, when a Jewish man living on an uninhabited island was asked why he needed three houses, he replied: “A house that I live in, a synagogue that I pray in, and a synagogue that I wouldn’t be caught dead in!”

Differences of opinion are unavoidable among people, and they are a fundamental part of human life. Each of us has our own mind, our own heart, and our own history of personal experiences. But sometimes we take these differences too far. So when some in the U.S. Senate started throwing around names like “anarchists,” “nihilists,” “extortionists,” and “socialists who want to force their will on the American people”, the Senate’s Chaplain, Barry Black, felt it was time to intervene.

So what separates healthy disagreement from the behavior that caused the Chaplain to pray for salvation “from the madness?”

Two heads are better than one specifically because they are different; the power of teamwork lies in the differences between team members… when the team members work together.

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For the key to keeping our individuality complementary, we can look to the angels Michael and Gabriel. Associated with kindness and giving, Michael is known as the ‘Angel of Water;’ water flows down and provides moisture all the way down till the lowest point it can reach. In contrast, the angel Gabriel is associated with strength and growth, and is referred to as the ‘Angel of Fire,’ which always moves upward and consumes.

Despite being polar opposites, these opposite angels are not at war. They do not fight and bicker, and heaven does not shut down.

The key to peaceful disagreement is perspective.

Governmental departments including the Social Security Administration distribute billions of dollars every month to retired, unemployed, and needy residents of the United States, while the IRS collects trillions of dollars every year in taxes. One governmental department is distributing enormous amounts of money at the same time that another is collecting it. In the small picture they serve opposite functions, but in a broader perspective their purposes are the same: To serve the United States of America by fulfilling the needs of the country.

Michael and Gabriel fulfill opposite functions. But both serve the same purpose: contributing to the completion of the universe.

Chaplain Black did not admit on behalf of the U.S. Senate “We acknowledge our transgressions…” or pray “Forgive them the blunders they have committed” because they disagree about health care reform. Instead, the reason for the scolding was summed up in the prayer “Remove from them that stubborn pride.”

Each and every one of us is unique – intellectually, emotionally, and in countless other ways. No two of us will agree about everything, and most of us will differ on many issues. When we look to the divine servants for inspiration, they remind us that even if our opinions are opposite, even if we serve diametrically opposed functions, as long as we remember that we are all making different contributions to the same purpose, we can disagree peacefully and retain our respect for each other and ourselves.

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