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Managing Disagreements: Texts from the Talmud

Below are two texts from different parts of the Talmud, the major corpus of Rabbinic law and culture in the Jewish tradition, edited around 500 C.E. (the first text) and 200 C.E. (the second text), respectively.

They tell the story of the academies of Hillel and Shammai, two different schools and ideological camps that thrived in the first century of the Common Era. Though they disagreed, at times profoundly, about how Jewish law should be decided, they managed those disagreements in fruitful ways.

Rabbi Abba said in the name of Shmuel:

For three years the academy of Shammai and the academy of Hillel argued. One group asserted, “The law follows our views,” and the other asserted, “The law follows our views.”

A Heavenly voice came down and announced, “They are both the words of the living God, but the law follows the academy of Hillel.”

Since both were the words of the living God, what entitled the academy of Hillel to have the law agree with them?

Because they were kind and modest, they studied their own rulings and those of the academy of Shammai, and not only that, they mentioned the rulings of the academy of Shammai before their own.

Talmud Eiruvin 13b | Also see: The Open Canon: On the Meaning of Halakhic Discourse

Even though the academy of Shammai declares one thing kosher while the academy of Hillel declares the same thing not kosher, even though one forbids while the other permits, the academy of Shammai did not refrain from marrying the women of the academy of Hillel, nor did the academy of Hillel refrain from marrying the women of the academy of Shammai.

Even though one side declares things to be pure while the other side declares the same thing to be impure, nonetheless they did not refrain from preparing things requiring a state of purity by using things from the other side.

Mishnah Yevamot 1:4

DMU Timestamp: January 07, 2015 02:48

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