Thursday, November 06, 2008


R. David Silverberg explores Avraham's method of resolving disputes (link):

We read in Parashat Lekh-Lekha of the conflict that arose between Avraham’s shepherds and those of his nephew, Lot. Avraham and Lot returned from their temporary stay in Egypt with large herds of sheep and cattle, and the shepherds began quarreling over space and resources (13:7). Avraham said to his nephew, “Al na tehi meriva beini u-veinekha” – “Let there not be a fight between me and you…for we are men who are brothers” (13:8).

Click here to read moreAvraham’s remark to Lot is one that likely resonates among most of us. Few people enjoy conflict and arguments. It is far more pleasant and enjoyable to live with our family members, neighbors and friends in peace, harmony and serenity, without the tensions brought on by hostility and controversy. Most people find themselves occasionally saying or thinking, “Let there not be a fight between me and you…for we are brothers.” We don’t want to fight with our “brothers” – with our family members, neighbors, associates or friends. We prefer smooth, positive relationships, in which all parties are in agreement and work together effectively.

But what distinguishes Avraham Avinu from most others is the subsequent verse, in which Avraham presents his strategy for diffusing the conflict between his and Lot’s camps: “Behold, the entire land is before you! Please separate from me – if to the left, then I shall go right, and if to the right, then I shall go left” (13:9).

Most people who say, “Let there not be a fight between me and you” complete the sentence by saying something to the effect of, “so don’t argue with me,” or “so do what I am asking.” Avraham did just the opposite. In his desire to avert further tensions, he said to Lot, “Choose whichever region you like.” Avraham understood that the best way to avoid conflict is to show greater flexibility, rather than demand flexibility. Instead of saying, “Let’s not fight – do what I want,” he said, “Let’s not fight – I’ll do what you want.” Avraham thus teaches that the more effective conclusion to the statement, “Let there not be a fight” is “I’ll happy to do as you wish,” rather than “so do as I say.” By showing flexibility and minimizing demands, we stand a greater chance of establishing and maintaining stable and enjoyable relationships, and avoiding the strains of conflict and hard feelings.
I don't think that R. Silverberg is advocating always giving in and becoming a doormat. I think he is emphasizing the importance of felixibility which, in this case, meant allowing Lot to make the decision.

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