These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

A few thoughts about Constructive Conflict Day at Pardes

Posted on February 21, 2013 by Gabby Goodman

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Yesterday at Pardes, during the Jewish Day of Constructive Conflict, after practicing three skills for constructive conflict in the Beit Midrash — deep listening, asking opening questions, and mirroring — we moved into small groups to see what would happen with these skills when we applied them to a live conversation, over a delicious lunch, guided by the following question:

What is your relationship with the various prayer communities at Pardes? How does this impact your relationship with the Pardes community as a whole?

I use this space to speak of the opening I experienced, not without some discomfort (I heard the cracking of my judgment shell), within myself as I was given the chance to hear other voices.

During the first weeks of experimenting with prayer at Pardes, I found that there was one question with which I grappled most of all: “here I am, attempting to bring out the smallest, most deeply personal voice that is so very good at hiding within me…how can I honestly do this with all these other people around me?” I have realized, since then, that although this question might be crystallized in moments of prayer, it is much much larger than the walls of any davenning space.

I am presented with this challenge every single day: how do I explore my own inner being, — constantly changing, constantly surprising me – while I do my utmost to honestly share moments with those around me?

After yesterday, I am sure that I can add another layer to this challenge: each person around me is asking the very same question, albeit in his or her own personal language.

As facilitator and active participant in one of these discussions, I was honored to be presented with the respective struggles (and joys!!!) of each person in my group. I listened as some of the members of my group expressed even the extreme opposite views from me about the way they see themselves as members of a prayer community. Above it all, this is what stood out for me: these are not positions to which any of the members of my group have come to lightly, and they are still positions in progress.

We are not prepared to bend over backwards to win each other’s favor, after so much personal spiritual work. We should not be expected to be. We do not agree, and we should not have to. We have limits, and nobody apologized for feeling the way that they did, which was very refreshing to me. I do not know yet what will emerge from this event. But for a start, I had a chance to recognize and appreciate the internal questioning and personal searching behind each opinion I heard expressed. My respect for the inner lives of my fellow community members has deepened, and that is a strong basis for whatever might come next.