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Unread 01-27-2012, 04:54 AM   #1
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what are the rules and limits of debate in judaism

what is leaving me a bit confused is on one hand debate is encouraged and a central part of Judaism, but on the other hand you cannot come up with new or your own interpretations and when debating something it seems inevitable that someone will come up with a new idea or take on something

If I can put it this way is the purpose to find out the answers and meanings through debate and your ideas but don’t come to new interpretations

hope it makes sense
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Unread 01-27-2012, 09:32 AM   #2
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Debate, is not condoned in Judaism, truth is. Sometimes to explain your truth it must come through a debate.

(this is why debates for the purpose of debates is never condoned as each side is not looking for truth, but to prove their truth)

There were times that out of necessity that Jews throughout that the ages needed to debate to defend their position, but as a general rule is not condoned or suggested.
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Unread 02-05-2012, 01:41 PM   #3
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The answer depends on the context of the question.


There are debates in the Talmud among great sages but the purpose is to arrive at the truth. When we will be on their level then maybe we can try coming up with divergent views. One should always strive to know what the position of the great sages is and not to rely on our own inferior perspective. There are sages in the Talmud who never ever offered their own view but only invoked the view of forebears. Even the debates in the Talmud derive from Mount Sinai. It says so-and-so got it from so-and-so who got it from so-and-so, etc. who got it from Moses at Mount Sinai. If it did not come from Torah it isn't real.

Along somewhat similar lines, the purpose of free choice is to choose good. That is the only purpose of free choice. Free choice is not for its own sake or to go around with self-importance saying "I'm me!" Or to sing the famous Frank Sinatra song, "My Way." "I did it my way." Me, myself and I. Been there, done that. Now nullify yourself, go beyond your own yeshus, self-awareness, boundaries and limitations and plug into the infinite wisdom of Hashem instead of doing it your own way.

Here's that Sinatra song:

You like it? Are you happy? Good. Now you're yotzi. Now get over it. Been there, done that. DON'T do it your way.

Still, it depends on the context of the question. And there are some who have a particular sheeta they follow that they defend zealously and great sages defend their sheeta zealously and were actually required to. But if one is not on that level where they are defending their sheeta for the sake of the truth of their position, then they are defending their position for a lesser reason for material gain.

The Talmud states in Ethics of the Favthers, "All my days I grew between the sages and I found nothing better for the soul than silence." "Bein hachachamim" is often translated here as "among the sages" but literally it means "between the sages." The sages draw to opposite sides. One sage takes the side of chesed, kindness, and another takes the side of gevurah, strictness. And we sit silently and listen and learn from them instead of mixing in. We grow between them by listening silently to their debate, not by mixing in our own uninformed ideas.

Personally I have arrived at my own views about many things in Torah but I have tried to do so very slowly, over many years, because if it is not perfectly in concert with what Torah and the sages say, it is worthless.

There is also the concept that each of us has his own chaylek, his own portion, in the Torah. The Jewish People are like one body and some are the head, some are the heart, some are the hands etc. Together we bring down the service of G-d. So how do you know what your own contribution should be? Just because you are a dancer or an artist or craftsman, so then you get it in your head to do those things while throwing in a little Judaism? No. The way to decide what your contribution should be is by seeing what needs doing, not what you feel like doing, what mitzvah others are not doing, and doing what is needed. That's your contribution. But just to say I am an artist or I am a bricklayer so I am going to get everybody to lay bricks while putting on Tefillin! Because me? I gotta be me! Just like that famous Sammy Davis Jr. song, "I Gotta Be Me!" ---

You like that? Are you happy? Really? Really? Really, really, really??? Good. Now you're yotzi. Been there, done that. Now DON'T be you. Yeshus, self-importance, "me, myself and I" is NOT where it's at. The important thing is that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Until we realize this and internalize it, until we are bittul, self-nullified to something larger, we are trapped in our own narrow little prison.

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