One of my most important rabbinic roles during the years I
was privileged to lead the Pacific Jewish Center in Los Angeles was
peacemaker. In order to preserve communal harmony it fell to me to
mediate between parties in dispute.
Often these arguments were
between husbands and wives and I felt special spiritual satisfaction at
bringing these to an end. Restoring tranquility to a home is a momentous
mitzvah. (A God-given obligation)
disagreements were of a business nature. Most members of our community
strongly preferred to resolve business disagreements by means of rabbinic
mediation rather than by recourse to law suits.
Ancient Jewish wisdom
emphasizes that it is impossible for a society to enjoy an active economy without
occasional disagreements. Since creative people need to interact with others,
disagreement is inevitable. For society to benefit from extensive
commercial interaction, it needs to have mechanisms of dispute
resolution. For us, in our Southern California beachfront community, that
mechanism was largely me.
As you can imagine, this
brought me blessing because I had the honor of repairing relationships.
Additionally, oiling the wheels of commerce compelled me to become fluent and
practiced at those parts of ancient Jewish wisdom dealing with business law.
It is important to resolve
minor disputes before the tiny squabble becomes a feud that endures for years
or even for generations as with Kentucky’s Hatfields and McCoys or
Shakespeare’s Montagues and Capulets in Romeo and Juliet.
The importance of preventing
a minor problem from turning into a multi-generational feud is one of the many
marvelous examples of a powerful Biblical principle that is entirely invisible
without access to the Lord’s language. In other words, if you knew no
Hebrew and depend upon the English translation, you’d never spot the following
In Genesis 13, we read how
Abraham and his nephew Lot both possessed considerable flocks but sadly, their
there was a quarrel between the shepherds of Abraham’s flocks
and the shepherds of
Abraham said to Lot, ‘Please now, let there not be a quarrel
between me and you and
between my shepherds and yours…’
Why in the following verse
did Abraham suggest that Lot move to another city? Isn’t this a
needlessly dramatic solution to a small squabble among a few shepherds?
Wrong! There is much
more to the story. The Hebrew word used for quarrel in verse 7 is different
from the slightly longer Hebrew word used for quarrel in verse 8.
Take a look at them here:
The shorter word ReeV is the simplest word for quarrel. It means just
that – a quarrel. However, the longer word, MeReeVaH has 2 extra
letters. A letter ‘Mem’ in front (read right to left) and a letter ‘Hay’
at the back.
Those of you who took our
Holy Hebrew!—Learn to Read Hebrew course already know the meaning imparted to a
word by these two letters.
(If you didn’t, don’t
despair—Holy Hebrew! is coming up again in a few weeks)
“Hay’ changes the gender of a
noun to feminine. This means that the thing or idea described by the noun
has the feminine capacity to give birth. The ‘Mem’, shaped like a uterus
also conveys the idea of transforming a concept (conception) into a reality
A masculine argument ReeV
cannot give birth. A female argument MeReeVaH has the capacity to give
birth to future generations of argument and feud.
Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches
us that this wasn’t an unimportant quarrel. Each man’s shepherds acted in ways
that reflected their boss’s core values. Abraham understood that he and
Lot disagreed on basic business principles. This isn’t merely a child’s
Bible story. It is mature guidance for busy adults. Abraham is
teaching us to spot small arguments with the potential to become major feuds
and to take whatever action is necessary to preserve relationships and protect
harmony among people.
People hang out with, and do
business with people they like and trust. Don’t allow fights to
fester. And don’t delay learning to read Hebrew and spotting valuable
Bible insights yourself.