This post is about my belief that the Hebrew language can solve the core problem we have in America concerning the lack of civil discourse.
The Hebrew word for “understanding” is בינה (pronounced: “Binah” or more simply, “Bee-nah”). The root of the word בינה is בין (pronounced: “Bain” or “Beyn” depending on your accent). The word בין means “between”.
Question: What is the Hebrew language trying to teach us?
Answer: In order to truly understand something, one must seek to be between the two opinions.
For Americans in today’s culture, it’s natural to let ourselves be pulled in an extreme way to one side of the political spectrum or the other. This could align with our nature, our friend group, or the echo chamber of information we have told social media to give us based on our online behaviors. Most of this thinking is highly emotional and not sound in true academia or honest intellectualism. It’s rare we intake options from sound philosophy in a world where anyone can be a journalist.
Question: How do we overcome these emotions? How do we expand our thinking?
Answer: We do this with humility and a desire for understanding.
A great example of this comes from a famous story found in the Gemara (Eruvin 13b) where we learn about the disputes between the great schools of Hillel and Shammai. It is said that the House of Hillel taught the opinions of the House of Shammai before their own.
In order to find true understanding, seek to comprehend the other side from a place of respect and compassion. Be “between” the extremes for that is where the wisdom rest.
PS: Here are 2 excellent sources to learn more about Hillel and Shammai if you would like to learn more:
Hillel and Shammai
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