> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Brainstorming with Baars

How To Have an Argument

Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 )

by Rabbi Stephen Baars

"Many pens have been broken and seas of ink consumed to describe things that never happened." (Maimonides)

Our Sun is 400 times bigger than the Moon, so in order to effect an eclipse, the moon has to be placed 400 times closer to you and me.

"G-d placed them (the planets) in the heavens." (Genesis 1:14)

No other planet in our solar system has a moon that appears as the same size as the sun.

I remember as a child thinking that the sun and the moon were the same size, it certainly appears that way. It's shocking to realize that how we see things is not how they really are. We think the color red we see, is what everyone else sees too. Try to convince a grandparent their grandchild is not that smart (actually, don't try). A person has to stretch themselves to see how others imagine the world. Or that reality is really different to how we perceive it.

How we see reality is how we think reality really is. This will explain why the most annoying person in your office thinks that it's everyone else who has the problem.

In this week's parsha, the Torah tells us:

"Do not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise, and perverts the words of the righteous." (Deuteronomy 16:19)

Rashi (11th century French Rabbi) comments on this verse by saying: When a judge accepts a bribe from one of the claimants, it is impossible that he will not be inclined to turn the judgment in his favor.

Note, Rashi says "impossible." Not likely or more often, no, impossible!

No matter who you are, no matter how wise you may be, a bribe affects your decisions.

Dealing with difficult people is a real trick. But what the Torah is teaching us is, don't become one of those difficult people. When you take a bribe, you stop thinking objectively. It's not that you now think, how you see reality is how it really is - because we all do that. It's that you stop caring if you are right.

Bribes make you think the world revolves around you.

And in truth, it does revolve around you. Every human being is really sitting at the top of the world, their world. But it also revolves around everyone else too.

* * *


Question 1: Do you secretly believe that the country would run better if the President phoned you regularly for advice?

Question 2: What was the last unresolved argument or dispute you were involved in? Did you seek any outside advice? In the future, how would you go about seeking an impartial opinion?

Question 3: When was the last time you admitted you were wrong in a personal dispute? Do you think the infrequency of such instances is due to your supreme intellect - or your lack of objectivity?


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