We hear a lot about the value of diversity these days, especially in academic settings. What about in hashkafa? Does "shivim panim l'Torah" teach that diversity is to be valued, and to what degree? How do you balance it with "yotzei min ha'tzibbur"?

  • What do you mean by "hashgacha"? Do you actually mean "hashkafa"? – Isaac Moses May 3 '10 at 15:24
  • yes, really I meant hashkafa, but it almost works both ways. – Jeremy May 3 '10 at 15:52
  • You might want to consider responding to the uncertainties about your question expressed in the answers by adding more detail about what you're asking into the question. – Isaac Moses May 3 '10 at 16:11

I'd say, for starters, that it depends on what kind of diversity, and in what context.

For example, does "diversity" mean giving equal weight and equal time to movements and philosophies that declare themselves in opposition to Jewish values? If so, then no - we're not interested in that kind of "diversity"; in fact, our Sages established as minor holidays (listed in Megillas Taanis) several dates on they disproved Sadduccee explanations of the Torah, or removed them from sitting in the Sanhedrin.

On the other hand, when it comes to discussion between genuine Torah scholars, diversity of opinion is prized.

(That said, it is considered the ideal situation when a clear conclusion can be reached. When a dispute persists, sometimes for generations, then that is something unfortunate - see Temurah 15b and Sanhedrin 88b. There is also the consideration of לא תתגודדו, not forming diverse halachic cliques - Yevamos 13b-14a - although as the Gemara there concludes, this applies mainly when a single Beis Din themselves are split on what the halachah should be; it is perfectly legitimate, though, for different communities, even within the same city, to each follow halachah and custom as they have learned from their respective halachic authorities.)

To address Bas613's point:

Rambam (in his introduction to the Commentary on the Mishnah) observes that it is natural for different people, analyzing the same data, to come to different conclusions, and that indeed this is one way in which Torah disputes came about. Nevertheless, all of these different conclusions are valid approaches, and we say about them that "these and these are the words of the Living G-d."

Also, we are told that the reason for the deaths of R' Akiva's 24000 students (during this time of year, the Counting of the Omer period) was "because they failed to show respect to one another." One explanation of this (from the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l) is that indeed all of them learned the same principles from R' Akiva (including the idea, as he said, that "Love your fellow Jew as yourself" is a basic principle of the Torah), but each of them had a slightly different way of understanding and applying them (as would be expected, per the Rambam's comments above). The problem, then, was that instead of accepting and appreciating this diversity of opinion, these 24000 students each felt that it was vital (and indeed, mandated as part of the mitzvah of "love your fellow Jew") to bring each other around to their own way of thinking, to not allow the other person to persist in (what they thought was) a misguided approach - and that was the "lack of respect for each other" that doomed them as the bearers of Torah study for the next generation.

In short, then, there is most definitely room for diversity of approaches and of thought, and that should be promoted rather than tamped down.

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  • But there are situations where diversity is not regarding halachah but within halachah in terms of how things are done, how torah is taught, how people think. Could you address that too? – Bas613 May 3 '10 at 16:29
  • The Netziv writes that the error of the dor haflaga was their attempt to eliminate diversity within human society: shesileizeisim.blogspot.com/2012/10/… – LazerA Dec 12 '12 at 13:03

"The Torah's paths are those of pleasantness, and all its ways are peace" (Prov. 3:17). The only way to keep things pleasant and peaceful is to respect ALL the Torah's paths and ways.

-- Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (paraphrased)

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  • I would file that under "tolerance," another popular buzzword these days. I am really asking about the added value of diversity. If I look/think/act exactly like everyone else in my Torah community, would it actually be better to diverge a bit, as long as I stay on the path? – Jeremy May 3 '10 at 15:54

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