Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children. (Dedicated to the Refuah Sheleima of Shalva Adina Bas Sarah Chana & Eliyahu Aharon Ben Yocheved Yetta Ettel).
Two rabbis were arguing about a particular point in Jewish law. The first argued that his Chiddush – his nuance was so sharp and clear, it needed to be accepted into Halachic practice. His esteemed Rabbinic colleague demurred; “Look, you seem to be sharp and your insight certainly has merit, but what do you expect from me, look outside and see what people do and say and you will see that your suggestion has not been accepted,” he exclaimed.
“What people say makes a difference?” asked the first Rav. “”Let’s go outside and I will prove to you that it is indeed not accepted to decide matters of Jewish law – or even what words mean, based on what people say.”
With that, the two rabbis went out to the street. The first Rabbi stopped 3 people randomly and asked each one independently – “Is ‘Ohr’ day or night?” 3 times, he received the same answer – “Ohr (or light) is a reference to the day time.”
Tuning to his Rabbinic colleague, the first rabbi said, “Clearly, the Halacha does not care ‘what people say.’ It is a clear fact that the Gemara (Pesachim 4a) notes that Ohr refers to the nighttime according to ‘everyone’. That ‘everyone’ must only include those who are Talmidei Chachamim.”
The Torah reminds us to do Tov V’Yashar in the eyes of Hashem. Rashi explains that Tov refers to doing that which is proper in the eyes of Hashem while Yashar refers to doing right in the eyes of man. Rav Ovadiah MiBartenura adds that man here can only refer to one who is steeped in knowing what Hashem wants from you. It is not the “people” who keep us Yashar. It is doing Yashar in the eyes of people who know what Yashar is.
Sometimes, we accept as fact what “people say.” We do not always know who the “people” are or why they say what they say or even if they bothered to say it at all. Sometimes we will even negate that which we know to be the right thing to do when it is purported to be unpopular. Is this consistent with the Torah’s principle of Tov V’Yashar?
When should we take public opinion into account and when should we do that which we think is the “right” thing to do?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community.