In this week’s Torah portion, Abraham and God don’t agree with each other. God is disgusted with the immoral behavior of the residents of Sodom and Gemorrah and plots to destroy these cities. Abraham, while not condoning the people’s behavior, disagrees with God’s plan to annihilate the cities. He works very hard to change God’s mind by challenging God with great respect. In turn, God listens attentively to Abraham and responds with due respect. Ultimately, Abraham is not successful in changing God’s mind, but the relationship between Abraham and God is not strained by this disagreement. If anything, they grow closer to each other and forge a stronger bond.
After Tuesday night’s election, lots of us don’t agree with each other. This ability to disagree is one of the blessings of living in our country. But, our ability to disagree feels more like a curse than a blessing these days. Many who are unhappy with Tuesday’s election results have failed to reflect upon the growing frustration in our country and have resorted to explaining Tuesday’s results on the ignorance of those who were satisfied with the results. At the same time, many who felt victorious on Tuesday night, are chomping at the bit to suppress the views of those who lost and dismantle what has been built over the past few years more out of vengeance than out of what is best for our country. Both sides are behaving recklessly – showing no desire to respect, listen to or learn from, those with whom they disagree politically. As a nation, we have a lot to learn from Abraham and God’s ability to disagree, move forward and grow closer.
Judaism teaches us that there is nothing wrong with a good disagreement. The rabbis teach us that “any dispute which is for the sake of Heaven will ultimately endure.” (Pirkei Avot 5:20) If you passionately believe in something and are certain it will make the world a better place, stand up for it! But, Judaism warns us, don’t stand up for something by undermining someone else: “Who is honored? The one who honors others.” (Pirke Avot 4:1) Honoring each other, even when we do not agree is a fundamental Jewish value. No matter what we feel about Tuesday night’s election results, we owe it to each other to embrace this value and come together as a community that can model the lesson expressed by the ancient disagreement between God and Abraham: we can respectfully disagree and actually grow closer to each other.