As different factions argue in modern times many strategies have been tried. There has been bullying, outreasoning, ignoring, insulting, throwing data at one another, quoting authorities — you name it, every way of winning the argument has been tried. Strangely however, one thing that proved effective in the Talmud is neglected.
The Talmud (Eruvin 13b) says that the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel, the two great rabbinic schools, argued for years. A voice came from heaven and said that both houses were the word of the living God — that is, in great disputes, there is no solitary truth. However, the Talmud goes on to ask, why then is it that the House of Hillel prevailed in (most) disputes? “Because they were kindly and modest, studied the views of House of Shammai as well as their own and not only that but quoted the views of the House of Shammai before their own.”
Now there’s a strategy! Be kindly, modest, study your opponent’s views and present them fairly before your own. Why has no one tried that?
Rabbi David Wolpe’s musings are shared in My Jewish Learning’s Shabbat newsletter, Recharge, a weekly collection of readings to refresh your soul. Sign up to receive the newsletter.