Rav Yitzchok Hutner, zt”l, related that he understood the depth of the galus in America when he overheard two boys discussing the Kohain Gadol. One boy related to the other all he had learned about the special clothes the Kohain Gadol wore, and the unique avodah he performed in the Mishkan. The other boy replied, “How much do you think he made each year?”
This year as I was learning the parshiyos of the dispute between Yosef and his brothers I remembered that as a child I always took the brother’s side. I always felt that they somehow were right.
The truth is that whenever I learned in class about a dispute recorded in the Gemara I took sides. I always sided with Rava against Abayei, which made me pretty happy, because the law is only like Abayei six times in all of Talmud. I also always rooted for Bais Hillel over Bais Shammai, which boded well for me as well. [Anything that worked to keep my attention in class.]
In Torah there is an integral concept of ‘zeh v’zeh Elokim chaim’ which states that both sides of a Torah-based argument are correct, and equally represent the Word of G-d. Although on a practical level halacha must follow only one opinion, the dissenting view is still viewed as legitimate and true.
The concept of both sides being correct flies in the face of the prevailing attitude and mindset of our society. In America someone must get blamed. There are numerous law firms dedicated to seeking out grounds to be awarded monetary compensation for wrongs committed.
A few years ago, a woman sued McDonalds after she burned herself on the hot coffee she had ordered. Amazingly she won the case. The American mentality is that someone must be held accountable – someone other than me.
One morning some time ago I was eating breakfast with my fifth-grade class. The father of one of my student’s had been hit by a car, and I asked that student how his father was doing. He replied that although his father needed rehab, he was doing better. Another boy overheard something about an accident and called out, “Who had an accident?” The first boy replied that his father had been hit by a car while walking in a parking lot. Without missing a beat, the other boy asked “Did you sue?” Fifth grade!
We like when things are clear cut – black and white, good, and evil. But the reality is that things are generally not that way. Life is full of gray areas.
In Torah not always is someone right and someone wrong. Abayei is no less correct than Rava, despite the fact that practically the law follows the opinion of Rava.
The righteousness and stalwartness of Yosef is beyond our comprehension, no less than the righteousness of the brothers. Both were correct and they remain the leaders of the tribes.
It is a lesson we need to learn well. Not everyone who disagrees with us is wrong, and even if they are wrong it isn’t reason to write them off completely.