The Struggle to Minimize Machlokes

Hashem wants us to achieve some very specific things, one of which is “walking in his ways”. The Ramchal explains, based on Mishna 2.1 in Avos, that our actions should lead to true good, namely, strengthening of Torah and the advancement of friendship. Anything that connects people is good and anything that separates people is bad.

This leads to one of the primary Shul principles, which is minimizing machlokes. I was tested by this on two separate occasions recently where people came with what I call a reasonably unreasonable request. From their perspective it was perfectively reasonable, but from a Shul perspective it was slightly unreasonable. Both of them threatened to go to the Rav to get a Psak in their favor. Although the Rav might bring up an issue with me, he would never issue a Psak overriding an operational decision. However, the Rav’s guidance in many Shul matters often has the minimizing machlokes principle at its root.

My difficult task was to not be offended by their threat to get an overriding Psak. I couldn’t even tell them that the Rav would not override a decision. My job was to try to satisfy their request, with a smile, even if it was slightly unreasonable. I was fairly successful in one situation, probably because it came through email and I resisted the urge to respond until I could resolve it in the person’s favor. In a face to face situation, I was only partially successful, because the audacity of the psak override threat got the best of me.

Hashem wants us to connect. Hashem wants us to be united. This is why minimizing the divisive effects of machlokes is a primary Shul Policy.

One last point to note is that sometimes a decision must be made which will upset someone, creating a slight machlokes. However we must still strive to minimize the occurrence and degree of any machlokes. It’s not always easy because emotions often come into play, but the more we can internalize the principle the better chance we will have of implementing it and fulfilling Hashem’s directive.