Conflict Prevention Values In Judaism: Coping with a Bad Summer by Beginning a New Year


Below is an excerpt from my book, Between Eden and Armageddon: The Future of World Religions, Violence, and Peacemaking, pp. 177-179 . The reason I am reproducing this now is given the Jewish season of New Year, repentance,  and the never ending assault this summer on the decency of the Abrahamic religions, their constant use and abuse by states and extremists alike, it strikes me as the right time to remember the thousands of years and thousands of texts that are humanitarian and decent in just one tradition, let alone all the great sacred traditions of humanity. We must not forget, we must not let states and their extremists bury the wisdom of any great tradition.

Conflict Prevention Values In Judaism

A. Self

benevolent care of the self (al tehi rasha bifne, ahavah kamokha, im ayn ani li)[1]

self-scrutiny and change (heshbon ha-nefesh, teshuva)[2]

acquiring a good name (shem tov)[3]

intellectual study for the purposes of ethical practice (lomed al menat la’asoth)[4]

internalizing ethics rooted in wisdom (hokhmah, middoth talmid hakham)[5]

internalizing wisdom as a way of creating compassion and peace (hokhmah)[6]

calculation and prioritization of competing laws and values, constructive conflict

(talmud torah, 13 middot she’ha torah nidreshet,halakha, mahloket le’shem shamayim)[7]

becoming like God in the acts of benevolence and peacemaking (ve’holakhta

be’derakhav, oseh shalom b’meromav)[8]

B. From Self To Other

empathy with pain, including non-human pain (rahamim)[9]

personal involvement in acts of compassion as the essence of the Torah (gemilut  hasadim)[10]

the use of the human face in interpersonal encounter to create peace (sever panim yafot,  kabbalat panim)[11]

the infinite dignity and value of every human encountered (tselem elohim)[12]

favorable inter-personal judgments in moments of uncertainty (dan le-kaf zekhut)[13]

trust (emunah)[14]

love expressed by complete identification with the other’s needs(ahavah kamokha)[15]

           unilateral honor as the key to relationships (ayze’hu mekhubad, kevod haverkha)[16]

language as a way of building human relationships (shemirat ha-lashon)[17]

C. From Self To Estranged Other

trust as a key prevention to violence (amanah)[18]

engagement in constructive conflict but not persisting in conflict (mahloket le-shem

shamyim, hizuk be-mahloket)[19]

the value of constructive criticism in making peace (tokhaha)[20]

the importance of compromise in adjudication (peshara)[21]

the love of strangers, and the refusal to oppress them (ahavat gerim)[22]

human hatred as sin, and principal cause of Divinely ordained punishment (sina’at


the destructive impact of revenge in deed or in words (nekimah, netirah)[24]

the use of language to humiliate as sin (ono’at devarim)[25]

listening as the key to wisdom and human relations (seyag le’hokhmah, shoel


listening as peacemaking (middot ahron)[27]

humility and the temporary suppression of self (anivut, ga’avah)[28]

injury to the face of the other (humiliation) as murder (halbanat panim)[29]

truth as a foundation to society, equal to peace and justice (emet)[30]

peace as a name of God, and the pursuit of peace as the ultimate religious task

(shalom, redifat shalom)[31]

seeing truth in multiple and even contradictory manifestations (shiv’im panim

la’torah, elu ve’elu)[32]

compromise as a central element in pursuing peace (pesharah)[33]

truth as something to be found through every human encounter (ezehu hokham ha-

lomed me’kol adam)[34]

fostering communal consciousness among enemies through shared good deeds and mutual aid (hakem takim imo)[35]

transparency and truth in negotiation(emet, massah u’matan be’ emunah)[36]

patience and training in resistance to anger (noah likh’os)[37]

patience with another’s anger, especially in order to help him save face (she’at ka’aso)[38]

the art of reducing rage with gentleness (ma’aneh rakh)[39]

The overt acts of regret, confession, apology, repentance and atonement in the context of restitution (teshuva, haratah, vidui, haratah, selihah, mehilah,


D. From Self And Other To Community

social justice and the restoration of balance in social and economic relations,

especially of the economically weak, and the landless poor (tsedek, mishpat

ger, ani ve’evyon)[41]

benevolent care of the honor and security of colleagues (kevod haverim, mamon


opening the home to community (hakhnasat orhim)[43]

the prevention of suffering, both human and animal (tsa’ar ba’al hayim)[44]

developing skills of constructive inter-personal and social criticism that does not

lead to losing of face(tohakha)[45]

impartial courts (mishpat)[46]

social justice (tsedakah)

the limitation of material as a way to communal happiness (ta’avah, ezehu ashir,

marbeh nekhasim)[47]

a pro-active mitsvah of seeking conflicts that need resolution(redifat shalom,

bakshehu be’makom aher)[48]

personal and collective transformation, training in the willingness to change (darkhe


the construction and perpetuation of customs of civility that prevent conflict (hilkhot

derekh eretz)[50]

the power of greeting the face of the other in the social construction of a pluralistic

universe (sever panim yafot)[51]


Conflict Prevention And Fulfillment Of The Self

I would like to highlight some of these values as particularly interesting, and leave for a larger study their exhaustive analysis. The very fact that one notices in religious literature, from East to West, from Buddhism to Judaism, a careful attention to nurturing the inner life, and working on the moral life from an internal perspective, suggests an important critique of current conflict resolution practice. Conflict resolution needs to address the most protean origins of anger, suffering, love, benevolence, and skills of fair play and communication. Otherwise, deficiencies of character are bound to undermine the skills that are being taught.

An example of this involves the issue of self-love, a theme taken up by many moral sense theorists in the nineteenth century as a basis for a moral system.[52] In classical Judaism, the religious psyche is meant to be self-loving in order to be loving in an other-directed sense. The classical basis of this is the Golden Rule, which comes in its earliest form from the Hebrew Bible, Leviticus 19:18, “Do not take vengeance, or a bear a grudge. And you must love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Eternal God.” The verse is generally assumed to mean that you must love the Other as you love yourself, which cannot be done without self-love, a practice that for many people takes a lifetime to achieve. I believe that it is one of the hardest things for members of a hated minority to truly feel.[53]

This principle, in and of itself, might form the basis of one of the most neglected areas of conflict prevention, namely rehabilitation work with anti-social personalities, prisoners, and war criminals, whose self-loathing is plainly apparent in many cases. But we must leave this for a separate study.

Another key point in the self-oriented values is imitatio dei. For the religious human being the fact that one can be like God if one is a peacemaker is a deeply empowering psychological phenomenon. It makes one’s experience larger than life, a conquest of mortality, and a unification with eternity, as well as with others past and present who have walked the same path. To the degree to which this experience could be applied to the lonely life of the peacemaker who champions benevolent values it could have a significant impact on the psychological sustainability of conflict resolution as a vocation. This is one of the most difficult problems of the field, and it is particularly true for those people who confront intractable, deadly conflicts that last for decades.

Conflict Prevention and the Interpersonal


As we move into values that govern interpersonal relationships, there are a few that are particularly noteworthy. The importance of interpersonal meeting, especially face to face encounter cannot be overemphasized. The principal Biblical phrase for non-sexual love is motseh hen, to find grace in the eyes of the Other who is encountered. The Talmudic Rabbis (henceforth, the Rabbis) mandated that one should greet everyone with a loving, or literally “beautiful”, face, “sever panim yafot”. They prohibited the kind of language and actions that make the face turn white with embarrassment, making the latter into a sin akin to murder, literally the shedding of the blood of the face. Conversely, they made the honor of the Other into a supreme mitsvah, the opposite of humiliation of the face of the Other.[54] Honoring of the Other, in theory, can become an experience of intense religious fulfillment.

Face is a critical category in conflict analysis.[55] Saving face is a key generator of conflict in many situations, for a variety of reasons, including the inability to back down from the action-reaction spiral of aggressive behavior due the fear of losing face. This is especially true of leaders who fear the wrath of their followers who could not cope with the loss of face without turning on the leaders themselves. Collective humiliation is one of the main reasons for the self-perpetuating cycles of numerous international and inter-ethnic conflicts.

Honor, as an intentional peacemaking act, is a rather under-utilized strategy of conflict prevention and conflict resolution at the current time. The better diplomats understand this well, but it is rarely made into a conscious process that applies generally to the interaction of large populations. Any Jewish methodology of conflict resolution would have to focus on honor and the necessary engagement with the face of the enemy, on both the elite level and on the grassroots level.

I have utilized this ethical principle myself in Jewish-Arab relationship building on many occasions, and it simultaneously fills my need for an indigenous method of engagement with the estranged Other, and it also is far more effective than dialogue in setting the stage for difficult processes of trust-building and negotiation. Honor, I have experienced, is a deep surprise to the enemy Other, it puts the relationship on a new footing and makes both parties more open to a relationship where they are deeply valued. It is no substitute for dialogue on power and resource distribution, which must inevitably come, but it does put these negotiations in a decidedly more pro-social context.

Sometimes the ethical gesture even causes a revolution in the negotiation process. It uncovers the deeper reasons that the rational negotiation processes, with their seemingly obvious compromises, turn out to be so elusive. This may be why the details of negotiation appear so absurd to the outsider. Right beneath the surface of the participants’ negotiating positions is deep-seated rage for various injuries, among them humiliation, and these deeper issues insert themselves as a cancer into the fine details of the negotiation. When this ethical effort is undertaken it causes a shock and, once the shock is overcome, allows the rational processes to progress unencumbered by free-floating angers and fears that wait to attach themselves to and disrupt this or that detail of an agreement.

I remember speaking to the PLO representative in Washington many months after Rabin’s assassination and not long after Likud’s accession to power. When he spoke of Rabin—no deep friend of the PLO, by the way—a wistful, sad look came over his face, as he peered downward into his memory. He said, simply, “They [Rabin and company] treated us with respect.” To me, that was the heart of the matter. All the details of the agreements paled in comparison to this one issue. The moment of human relationship is the glue that either makes it impossible to disentangle a conflict, or it is the glue that cements a common future in peace.

From Self and Other To Community

The extension of the interpersonal values to the communal and societal sphere is critical. The following communitarian rabbinic values should be highlighted: 1. Involvement in the suffering of others in the community, 2. Taking responsibility to heal that suffering, 3. Social justice, in the form of a reasonable redistribution of resources, as a religious task or mitsvah, 4. Constructive social criticism, which usually accompanies the implementation of social justice, perceived as a mitsvah as well, 5. A strong sense of responsibility to connect the home and the public sphere by way of the openness of the home to the “street”, that is, making one’s home and family open to some degree as a refuge from the inevitable harshness of the public sphere, 6. A detailed attention to customs of civility as socially constructive and as, therefore, religious duties, 7. A commitment to voluntarily limit one’s physical needs and discourage excessive wealth, in order to make a society in which everyone can live, and, finally, 8. A halakhic commitment to make conflict resolution into a social mitsvah, a mitsvah of bakesh shalom ve’radfehu[56], “seeking peace and pursuing it”, literally a mitsvah to go and seek out other peoples’ conflicts to solve. This last mitsvah is particularly potent as a vehicle through which to advocate conflict resolution training in even the most fundamentalist contexts.

Conflict Management, Resolution, And Reconciliation: The Ideal Jewish Peacemaker

Now let us turn to conflict management, resolution, and reconciliation. Some of the most important constructs of conflict resolution in numerous rabbinic sources are expressed by Midrashic metaphor. The Rabbis make the Biblical figure Aaron, the High Priest, and brother of Moses, into the paradigmatic peacemaker.[57] There are a variety of motivations for the Rabbis to do this, some involving the inner logic of Biblical hermeneutics, and others involving a contemporaneous anti-violence critique of priestly Judaism embedded in the counter-example of Aaron.[58]

It is also significant that the Rabbis do not speak about conflict resolution abstractly but by instantiating these values in a particular personality. This raises some important issues, for further study elsewhere, about whether the field of conflict resolution has focused too much on skills and not enough on the formation of character, namely, the ideal personality of the peacemaker. Religion focuses heavily on role modeling and on the development of moral character. More reflection is required on whether this is simply a different way to attain the same goal as conflict resolution training that focuses on objective skills, or whether there is something that these paradigms can learn from each other.

Let us move forward now by citing a classic instance of Aaron as a model of peacemaking:

And thus when two men were in a conflict, Aaron would go and sit with one of them. He would say to him: My son, look at your friend, [look at what he is saying], he is tearing at his heart and ripping his clothing. He says, ‘Woe is me, how can I lift my eyes and see my friend. I am ashamed before him, for it is I who wronged him. And he [Aaron] would stay with him until he removed all of the jealous rage from his heart. And Aaron would then go to the other man, and say, ‘My son, look at your friend, [look at what he is saying], he is tearing at his heart and ripping his clothing. He says, ‘Woe is me, how can I lift my eyes and see my friend. I am ashamed before him, for it is I who wronged him. And he [Aaron] would stay with him until he removed all of the jealous rage from his heart.

And when the two would finally meet, they would hug and kiss each other.[59]

Another version has Aaron saying everything said above, but with the added words to each adversary, “Now go, with your compassion, and ask forgiveness from him.”[60]

Humility and Self-Abnegation As Conflict Resolution

The context of this story is a religious universe in which the High Priest has the most elevated status in the community. Furthermore, his ritual purity is more important than anyone else’s purity, because he regularly represents the community in the most sacrosanct realms of the Temple. For the Rabbis to make this figure into a model of intervention into the crass problems of inter-personal conflict is extraordinary. Thus a key element here is the humility and even self-abnegation of the intermediary.

Humility embedded in the character of the peacemaker is seen in rabbinic thought as a major component of peacemaking:

There is no one who is more humble of spirit than the peacemaker. Think about it, how can a person pursue peace if he is not humble? How so? If a man curses him [when seeing him], he says back to him, “Hello [lit. Peace to you].” If a person fights with him, he is silent.[61] Furthermore, if two people are fighting, he swallows his own pride [lit. depresses his spirit] and goes to appease one, and then to appease the other….[62]

Further proof of this rabbinic theme is found in the extraordinary story about Rabbi Meir (c. 135-170 CE), one of the greatest scholars of Jewish history. He was delivering lectures, and a certain married woman came to hear him speak. One lecture went late, and by the time the woman got home, the candles in the house had already gone out. The husband was so incensed that he would not let her back into the house until she spit in the rabbi’s face!

There are many interesting issues to deconstruct in this story. There were men at the time that hated the Rabbis as intellectual elitists, and here in this story, this resentment was probably compounded with the classic male jealousy when women dare to know more than they do, especially when they learn from another man. Thus, there is an intellectual/popular conflict here that the rabbi is party to in an important way. He and his class have caused some of this marital tension, though clearly the husband’s reaction is seen by the Rabbis to be unreasonable and sinful. Thus, justice or righteousness appears to be on the side of the woman and the rabbi, but peace certainly is not. The great rabbi has just created a domestic war.

Rabbi Meir’s response is to go to the neighborhood of the woman, who has been out of her own home for days and quite distraught. He asks her if she knows how to do incantations over an eye that is ailing. He pretends to have an eye ailment. When she cannot exactly recount an incantation for eyes, he tells her not to worry, and, based on his authority as a rabbi, he assures her that if she just spits seven times in his eye he will be cured. And, of course, so the story goes, this leads to reconciliation with her husband.

This is, naturally, a tale, true or mythical, taken from a very simple context on one level. However, as with all Jewish hermeneutic learning, it forms the basis of deeper thought about complex moral dilemmas. Rabbi Meir is a deeply involved third party, with great power due to his spiritual position, who deliberately lowers himself to make peace. This story, then, is meant to critique a certain elite, priests or Rabbis, who may think that peacemaking is beneath them.

More importantly, the actions of the third party are a critical role model for the conflicting parties. They demonstrate that the mediator must be prepared to lose a little face in order to do something sublime, something spiritual, a mitsvah. In so doing, in both cases, Aaron and Rabbi Meir prepare the parties for a crucial and difficult stage of conflict resolution, or more specifically reconciliation, which usually involves swallowing a little pride, in other words, losing a little face. It is usually impossible to arrive at a settlement, and even more deeply, to achieve some reconciliation, unless there is some surrender of previously held positions. This involves a loss of pride. Furthermore, reconciliation generally involves a certain level of remorse, which again entails a psychological loss of pride or face. This, I suggest, is a crucial psychological juncture for conflict resolution that is often overlooked. We know it must happen but we underestimate the psychological challenge to the parties. We therefore underestimate the inducements and cultural models that may be necessary in order for them to reach this stage of peacemaking. The rabbinic paradigm suggests that, in addition to making compromise and remorse into a high spiritual accomplishment (mitsvah), the third party may be essential in providing a model of this excruciating task. The more upright or honorable a figure the third party is in his own right, the more powerful the model will be for change in the parties. The more that this dignified individual is willing to humble himself, the more powerful the model of peacemaking. This means that that the psychological strength and moral character of the peacemaker/mediator is an essential element in conflict resolution.[63]

The Rabbinic Mediator And The Contemporary Model

This is a profoundly different role than the typical Western concept of the neutral, emotionally distant mediator whose skills are central but whose character or personal values are irrelevant.[64] Rabbi Meir deeply involves himself but in complicated ways. He clearly acts on the moral belief that marriages should be saved wherever possible. He clearly sympathizes with the wife, but is respectful of the husband’s domain to not challenge the latter’s mean-spirited behavior. Rather, he will find a way to reconcile them in some other fashion. In fact, he will satisfy the need of the husband for some kind of revenge against a rabbi. The latter is one of the more astonishing elements of Meir’s strategy.

There is much to reflect on here, and many problems with too literal a take on the rabbinic methods here, which after all come from a bygone civilization of two thousand years ago. But it raises for me the question of whether our rational, or at least pro-social methods, of face to face engagement in dialogue, which are meant to produce a loving engagement between old enemies, really address the rage that is inside people in conflict. Perhaps by ignoring the need to satisfy this rage we are ignoring one reason why our methods fail so often. Do we need to consider methods that can help parties to a conflict release their anger more productively? Are we afraid of the process of play at victory and revenge that may help save some face even as parties agree to reconcile? If we reject this as barbaric, then why do we embrace the Olympics, which have always functioned in this way? I leave this as an open question for now.

We also must consider the evolving role of the mediator/peacemaker in contemporary culture. There is an ongoing debate about whether neutrality is a figment of the imagination, and whether the mediator should be more or less directive as far as the values that he shares with the parties. There is also debate about whether a third party should strictly facilitate and mediate, or whether he should guide the parties to a moral transformation of themselves and their relationships.[65] Clearly there are many actors today who are engaging in a variety of models of intervention in conflicts.

It seems clear from this rabbinic model that deep involvement that is somewhat directive, combined with a deliberate expression of vulnerability on the part of the mediator is crucial. Although it should be noted that in the primary version of the Aaron story, Aaron never says to the parties what they should do. He listens and evokes, though in a rather intense fashion. In the minor version, he does direct the parties to have compassion and forgive, but not coercively, and only after he has helped the adversaries through an emotional transformation that makes them ready to have compassion. Furthermore, it must be said that this is a method that is internal to a high-context culture in which the priest or rabbi has great moral authority. Such daring behavior may backfire if this were naively applied to contemporary inter-cultural and international efforts where there is no common respected authority or agreed upon system of values, and, most important of all, no substratum of cultural trust. It will take time and creativity to glean the best from this rabbinic model without blindly applying its methods to unprecedented situations.

Listening and The Suspension Of Time Constraints As

Conflict Resolution

Another key element in Aaron’s method is empathic listening.[66] The details of the story indicate that he speaks but also stays with each person for an extensive period of time, in fact, he “would stay with him until he removed all of the jealous rage from his heart”. This combination of listening, staying with someone who is enraged, and having an open-ended time frame, seems to be crucial to conflict resolution in traditional cultures in general. One is struck, for example, by the difference in time that the elders in Somalia spent in retreat on resolving their country’s conflicts, by contrast to the official diplomatic time frames.[67] Traditional societies, in general, have a vastly different conception of time.

The ideal Jewish peacemaker’s path, as seen from the Aaron stories, involves: the development of a pious or moral character worthy of respect, the conscious creation of role models of peacemaking, purposeful acts of humility that sometimes involve personal sacrifice or loss of face, active or empathic listening, a method of helping people work through destructive emotions, and, finally, the gift of abundant if not unlimited time.

Unilateral Gestures of Aid As Conflict Resolution

A critical and unique strategy of Jewish conflict resolution with Biblical roots suggests an alternative strategy to the typical focus on dialogue of conflict resolution theory. It does not call into question the importance of communication to conflict resolution, but it does suggest that there are forms of communication other than dialogue. The principal source for this is the Biblical mitsvah to help your enemy when he is faltering with a burden.[68] There are a variety of rabbinic rationales for this as a conflict resolution device.[69] Essentially, it involves what I have termed the positive uses of cognitive dissonance. The Rabbis suggested that enemies have a certain set understanding of each other that plays a vital role in their commitment to hate each other. Conflict resolution theory concurs with this.[70] The purpose of this mandated change in behavior is to create cognitive dissonance, to shatter the conception of the enemy. This leads, in turn, to a moral sense of regret inside the person who is the recipient of the unilateral gesture of physical aid from the enemy. He decides that he really misunderstood his enemy, or that his enemy really is not an enemy, ‘he could not be if he did this for me’. In other words, it is designed to shatter the false image of the enemy, and complexify the real person behind the image.

It is also, I would argue, a perfect way to make justice and peace work together as a conflict resolution strategy, rather than be at odds with each other.[71] But it does require great skill and patience. A simplistic belief that such gestures would or should work after one time is foolish, and will cause a backlash. Unilateral gestures of aiding those who are suffering require repeated and surprising innovations. The whole point of cognitive dissonance is that it is undoing something that is deeply entrenched, causing great anxiety, and will only result in a new emotive homeostasis after a great deal of time and struggle.

To take an example, it would take repeated and extensive gestures of Israelis working in Arab and Palestinian villages, to build good, permanent homes, before it became clear that there were Israelis who understood the Palestinian demand for justice, and were serious about their desire for reconciliation and coexistence. It would take repeated gestures of religious Israelis making donations to the upkeep of mosques before it would sink in that there were many religious Israelis who did not see all Muslims as enemies. It would take repeated offers of condolences, visits and gestures of comfort, on the part of Palestinians for Israeli victims of bombs for it to sink in that not all Arabs wanted those bombs to go off. It would take many Islamic gestures of hospitality to make religious Jews believe that they are finally welcome back to the Middle East as permanent residents. These bilateral gestures, over time, could create a far greater moderate middle than exists currently in Israel and the West Bank. This, in turn, would shift the population matrix undergirding the rejectionism of various political parties.

This method is the only real way that political or religious leaders ever make courageous gestures for peace. They must not go too far ahead of the mood of their people if they want to stay in power or even stay alive. They need the people to change first. Peace processes that operate with the illusion that absolute power emerges from the top of society are inherently weak. The methods that I suggest here could gently move enough people toward the moderate middle that will, in turn, provide the political space for leaders, religious or secular, to make the necessary compromises.

Reconciliation and Transformation: The Processes Of Teshuva

As we move into conflict transformation, namely, those inter-human strategies or actions that lead to a transformation of relationship from enemy to friend, or from one who is hated to one who is loved, we reach a plateau that often conflict resolution never attains. As difficult as this is, and as infrequent as it may be, it is nevertheless a desirable goal with rich rewards. And I would argue that in certain cases, unless there is transformation, rather than simple, legalistic settlements, the deep-seated problems will reassert themselves in some fashion, despite the conflict settlements.

In Jewish terms, this is best expressed by the statement, “Who is the strongest of the warriors?…” He who turns one who hates him into one who loves him.”[72] What sort of strategies can truly make such a profound transformation of relationship?

There is a process for Jewish transformation, roughly coming under the rubric of teshuva, which can mean repentance, but also means literally ‘returning’, or ‘turning toward’. The prophets say in the name of God at one point, “Turn toward me, shuvu eylay, and I will turn toward you, ve’ashuva aleikhem (Zakhariah 1:3)”. There is a covenantal mutuality built into the concept of teshuva, and it applies to both the human-Divine form of teshuva, and to the inter-human process of teshuva for wrongs done and relationships broken.

There are a number of elements to the ideal form of teshuva. First and foremost, teshuva cannot replace restitution. In other words, restitution must precede or accompany the process of conflict transformation if there have been real damages that require restitution. Beyond financial or physical restitution, however, the restorative aspect of teshuva must take place. This is where justice and peace have to work together or not work at all.

The restorative or conciliatory stage of teshuva ideally involves a confession of wrongdoing.[73] It is ideal if this confession, if it involves wrongs to other human beings, be done in public.[74]Abraham ben David of Posquières (c. 1125-1198) added that the public confession convinces the wronged party that the change in his adversary is authentic.[75] Other elements of the teshuva process involve, according to the Talmudic Rabbis, the giving of charity–always a standard of Jewish penance–,[76] a change in one’s name or identity, and some argue even a change in one’s place, and, last but not least, crying.[77] Maimonides clarified that all of these practices and emotional states are elements of authentic change, and he even recommends that a person cognitively dissociate from his own prior self by saying, “I am another person, and I am not the person who did those things.” Maimonides continues, “…and he changes his deeds completely to the good and to the straight path, and he exiles himself from his current place. For exile atones for sin, because it makes him to be humble and low of spirit.”[78]

Thus, there are four basic stages of teshuva. There is restitution. There is an expression of deep remorse (harata), a detailed confession, privately or publicly, of what one has done (vidui), and there is finally a commitment to change in the future, to the point of even changing one’s identity (kabbalah lehaba).

The teshuva model of reconciliation has some interesting implications when speculating on the application of this internal and interpersonal process to complex inter-group, inter-ethnic and international conflict. We must save a detailed analysis for a larger study, but a few points are in order. It is interesting to note how, almost unconsciously, collective groups, such as post-war Austrians, post-war Japanese, Americans in response to Native American genocide, or to non-American casualties of the war in Southeast Asia, and many other groups that I have observed, when faced with great shame over actions of their group in the past, have a tendency to invent a new pro-social identity. They act as if the past did not exist, or as if the past was some strange aberration dominated by a few chosen, demonized individuals, scapegoats if you will. It is a reinvention of collective memory.[79] Social critics universally perceive this as an inauthentic cover-up, a lack of honest confrontation with the past, in a word, hypocrisy that is bound to recreate the problem in the future.

Viewed from the perspective of the teshuva process just described, this is an unfair characterization. Groups tend naturally to do precisely what teshuva recommends for true transformation, namely, moving toward a new definition of collective self. The tendency is not wrong or hypocritical. Rather it is incomplete, which is a profoundly different sort of criticism that leaves the door open for positive change. The full confession stage is missing, the deep remorse, and the critical apology is often missing or grossly inadequate. This is usually due to deep insecurity that the new self is really authentic, and thus a full confrontation with the past could easily puncture the new identity.

In moving groups forward, as far as peacemaking is concerned, one should not criticize the reformulation of self-image. Rather, one should encourage a more complete process of transformation and reconciliation that the enemy party or the injured party requires. This involves remorse, confession that is full and complete, and that is accompanied by a reinvention of identity. The way to do this successfully requires greater study and experimentation. This same process will be essential some day as Jewish Israelis search for a new identity in the context of confrontations with the past, with 1948, and many other things. The research presented here is meant precisely to provide a framework for how to do this in a way that does not destroy a basis for an idealized collective self.

A legitimate critique of this approach might be that groups or individuals can only move forward into pro-social behavior when they take true ownership over their complete character, including the side of them that is anti-social, which some people unfortunately refer to as their “dark” side. I think that this is a subject worthy of greater study and research. My own impression from training people in conflicts from twenty countries is that a good concept of the collective self seems vital to pro-social behavior. We seem to need to feel that our group, or our religious community, is inherently good, with occasional aberrations. While it is true that this kind of idealization often leads to ultra-nationalist or chauvinist views of the world, it is equally true that it produces extremely righteous and even heroic peacemaking behavior in many others. They see the goodness of their collective self, group or religion, as deeply embedded in the foundations of who they are and why they make peace with others.

My own mentor, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, often would make the distinction in his oral discourses between the Jewish people and the House of Israel (knesset yisroel). He would, rather subtly, engage his religious audiences with the latter term as the one referring to an idealized people who are in love with God and beloved by Him, as a people with a great destiny who are capable of teaching God’s Torah to the world by example and witness. But this was so subtle a message that I wonder (in fact, I question) how many of his listeners understood that as a teacher, philosopher and political leader, he was quite committed to criticizing the behavior of individual Jews, even the behavior of the state of Israel, despite the risks that this entailed for him. This ability to both idealize and criticize, love and rebuke his people, was due to his critical theological and psychological distinction of the ideal collective self and the real collective group. Many did not understand this subtle distinction, either because they chose to ignore it, or because he did not say emphatically enough what he meant. In either case, despite the failings, there is an interesting model at work here for how groups can be encouraged to engage in self-criticism while still building an ideal collective self. But it should be noted that it is easy, too easy, to get a group to listen to its own idealization, while one constantly flirts with repudiation as one criticizes them. This is a delicate balancing act of love and rebuke that is critical to building a community that is both honest about its shortcomings and peaceful.[80]

Apology and Forgiveness As A Culmination Of The Teshuva Process

There has been much discussion about the value of forgiveness in conflict resolution. For the most part, it seems to me that this has been a heavily Christian discussion for Christian contexts, without the recognition of it as such. Forgiveness is a centerpiece of the metaphysical reality of Christianity. Why Christian culture would see forgiveness as central to conflict resolution is perfectly understandable. On the other hand, this is not a universal position even among Christian thinkers. Furthermore, the meaning and uses of forgiveness in the world’s cultures is a very complex affair that only occasionally resembles the Christian discussion. .

From my research it would seem that forgiveness, only when complexified and placed in the context of individual cultures, seems to play a crucial role in conflict resolution. It does occur in many cultures and can play a vital role in some circumstances. But what it means and how it is acted upon varies greatly. It also can and does interact in complicated ways with competing moral and spiritual responses, such as commitments to truth, justice, apology, repentance, penance, among others. Clearly, it plays a role in Jewish forms of reconciliation, but only when embedded in the teshuva process, which is either unilateral or bilateral depending on what injuries have been sustained by conflict.

As far as the application of this approach to forgiveness and apology, I wonder how powerful such a teshuva apology process could be on a much larger scale involving massive injury, murder and genocide. Surely, it would be a deeper process than simple payment for losses incurred, restitution, or the indictment of selected representatives of the war criminals. The latter is all the international community has been able to orchestrate when it comes to genocide until now, and all that this really even attempts to satisfy is the demands of justice, and it usually fails at that also. Indeed it has to. Who could construct an appropriate restitution for the loss of one’s family, one’s world? It seems to me that victim communities, and their tormentors, need to do much more in order to transform the past and present into a redemptive future.[81]

The sites of war, mass graves, and past horrors, are critical here. They are places that do not just deserve memorials. They should be places in which confession, apologies and restitutions are made on an ongoing basis, not in order to inject a sense of self-loathing into former aggressors. On the contrary, it is to free everyone to develop a new sense of self, to mourn the past together with the victims, regularly, in order to foster a new future. I had a hand in creating one such ceremony in Switzerland, and it was a good beginning, although only a beginning. I have also been told by various African peacemakers, among them Hugo van der Merwe and Hizkias Assefa, that such symbols and ceremonies are numerous in African reconciliation. They have yet to be catalogued and analyzed, and certainly await discovery by the international community of peacemakers and diplomats. Greater attention to this may help hasten the end of numerous intractable conflicts in Africa.

Returning to the Jewish community, I was struck recently by a letter in a Jewish newspaper. The author, a religious friend of mine, had worked with one of the investigative commissions on the Swiss banks, and had done a great deal of research on the Nazi gold issue. The Jewish community was particularly incensed by anyone who aided the Nazis to sell the gold that they had stolen from all the victims. Pondering the issue after the conclusion of his research, he decided to write a letter calling on the Swiss government to take all the gold that it got from the Nazis and bury it! Yes, bury it.[82]

From a pragmatic and rational point of view it was a rather bizarre suggestion, but it captured my imagination as a clue to hidden things. Over time, I began to make sense of it psychologically and spiritually from two vantage points. First, the obligation to personally see to the burial of loved ones is central to Jewish mourning, as it is to many indigenous peoples. Some of the gold came from the teeth of the millions of dead Jews, which should have been buried. It is that gold that, I am convinced without a doubt, weighs most heavily on the imagination and the religious conscience of survivors, even though it is kept quiet, as all dark nightmares are. Secondly, my friend was expressing an intuitive desire, not for the money, but for penance, penance for an entire civilization that reduced the value of these precious men, women and children, to the gold in their mouths. What better way to do penance than to bury the very thing, gold, that was made more valuable than those human beings who can never be replaced? What better statement that what we are engaged in is not just pragmatic, utilitarian restitution, but rather that we are engaged in an authentic process of teshuva? This, I believe, was his instinctive, cultural/religious motivation in making this suggestion. This is the kind of thinking and feeling that should be the basis of deeper discussions between enemy groups, particularly groups that have suffered massive injury. And it needs to take place with the involvement of as many people as possible, not just the elites, who may, for one reason or another, focus too narrowly on economic restitution, rather than other forms of restitution and restoration. I have found in my trainings that genius in healing is often found in the variety and diversity of many people who are empowered to articulate their insights.

Gender Identity and Conflict Resolution

I want to note one subtle but critical feature of Jewish conflict transformation and reconciliation, and this involves the issue of gender and conflict. It is self-evident how much in Western civilization men are associated with aggressive roles of hunter-gatherer and warrior, and identified with the cold calculus of war and rational advantage. Women are commonly associated with peaceful characteristics, including a constitutional abhorrence of violence, an embrace of emotional empathy, and a strong tendency to interact with others in a deeper, more intuitive fashion.

There are numerous instances in which rabbinic Judaism specifically couched Jewish maleness in allegedly female form.[83] The statement, “Who is a warrior, gibbor? He who conquers his evil side,” is one such example. Another example, and the most important for our topic, is the statement mentioned earlier, “Who is a gibbor, a warrior, among warriors? He who makes one who hates him into one who loves him.”[84] This was a clearly subversive effort to undermine the Biblical presentation of gibbor in terms of physical strength.[85]

I mention this here because it seems to me that there are a series of characteristics that are critical to successful conflict resolution that have been traditionally associated with the feminine in the West. These include the passive quality of listening rather than holding forth, the ability to empathize with all sides, the capacity to help people through their pain, the ability to nurture those who are sick and angry, to help people out of violence by showing them love, and many more characteristics that one sees are typical of the truly heroic peacemakers of our century.

It strikes me as dangerous if these characteristics continue to be seen as strictly female. It certainly is helpful in the evocation of these characteristics from women. But if we persist as a global culture in identifying these characteristics as exclusively female, then we certainly shall lose the majority of men as peacemakers. They are after all the principals of war and violence, and they ask themselves regularly, consciously or unconsciously, ‘am I a true man?’, ‘do I have courage?’, ‘am I a heroic man in some way?’. Many peacemaking men that I know, let alone others, ask themselves this constantly, due to the predominant image of the male, and this often causes them to abandon their own best instincts and engage in angry, aggressive behavior. If being a peacemaker cannot be an answer to that question then we lose the very people who need the identity of peacemaker to be internalized. Here I think that traditional religions have some interesting things to say, and I certainly believe that rabbinic Judaism may be teaching here an important point about how it is that we generate both men and women who see their identity fulfilled through peacemaking.

Vision, Hope, and Celebration as Conflict Resolution

One of the attractive elements in violent interpretations of religion is actually the hope generated by various myths of what the end of time will bring. Fear of and uncertainty about the future is one of the most anxiety-inducing elements of human life, especially where there is violent conflict. Often, apocalyptic views of the end of history involve one’s enemies or the “enemies of God”–which often are identical–being punished. One’s own group of the righteous are vindicated, saved and experience unparalleled joy and great comfort for the arduous and tragic path that has led up to this final denouement of history.

A truly viable form of conflict resolution must address this deep human need for future vision, for a hoped for vindication, for comfort that is provided by the future. Indeed, there must be celebration and anticipation that is a part of the life of those committed to peace. Peacemaking strategies do not necessarily have to include the idea of apocalypse in the future. But it seems clear that vision, and unleashing a person or group’s longing for vision, is a very powerful and empowering undertaking. Vision is the antidote to the obsession with the past. It cannot replace the mourning that we have described earlier, nor should it try. But it can complement it in important ways.

There has not been a sufficient attention paid to the power of vision in secular peacemaking, although there are secular visions of the future which are appealing to some and appalling to others. For example, Shimon Peres’ vision of a future Middle East that is economically prosperous, perfectly integrated, and democratic, sounds wonderful. But many religious people in the Middle East, both Jewish and Arab, heard in his words a vision of the future that eliminated their identities, a vision of materialism where the spiritual and moral life are irrelevant. Indeed, it is on that score that Peres’ vision is ridiculed the most in the Orthodox part of Israel. Indeed, the earliest Zionist vision has always been of the Jewish people slowly shedding its religious, exilic identity, and “normalizing”, becoming like other nations. It is vital, then, that communities in conflict be able to envision a future in which both live, and, in fact, engage in celebrating that future together.

Celebration is another basic religious impulse that has often been missing from secular constructs of peacemaking. Celebration is a critical human need, and it is therefore a basic religious category of law and ritual. This too must enter into the construction of peacemaking that is appealing to the broadest spectrum of people.

I remember that a friend of mine, quite secular, and very astute psychologically, once got lost on his way to a peace demonstration in Jerusalem. He stumbled instead into another demonstration. He was astonished by the fact that at one there was dancing, singing and passion, while at the other, the peace demonstration, there were speeches, and only more speeches, the telltale signs of a liberal, intellectual elite that was cut off from the human needs of average people. The demonstration that he stumbled into was a Meir Kahane demonstration. This must change if peacemaking is to go to the heart of the average person and his or her needs. Religious contributions to peacemaking can readily help this, if the alliance of religious and secular peacemakers is done well.


[1]M. Avot 2:13; Leviticus 19:18; M. Avot 1:14. I have included rabbinic phrases for each value. These values will require a longer study to analyze. They are not precise formulations but rather abbreviated references to the epigrams and aphorisms of rabbinic moral formulations, but they do typify the way in which these values are referred to often in the lived interactions of religious life. The latter is vital, from the point of view of anthropologically-based conflict resolution. See Kevin Avruch et al., eds., Conflict Resolution: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1991).

[2]See Zohar Numbers 178; for overviews of the extensive rabbinic literature on repentance, see Sefer Orhot Tsaddikim (Jerusalem, Eshkol, n.d.; rpt. Prague, 1581), ch. 26; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance. The citations in this and subsequent footnotes are merely selections and not an exhaustive list.

[3]Ecclesiastes 7:1; Exodus Rabbah 48; Midrash Tanhuma va-Yakhel states, “One finds three names that a human being is called, one what his mother and father call him, one what others call him, and one what he acquires for himself. The best of all of them is the name that he acquires for himself.”

[4]M. Avot 4:6.

[5]M. Avot 6:6.

[6]Moshe Cordovero (d. 1570), The Palm Tree of Devorah, trans. Moshe Miller (Spring Valley, NY: Targum/Feldheim, 1993), chapter 3.

[7]M. Avot 5:18; 5:20.

[8]Deut. 13:5;T.B. Sotah 14a;T.B. Shabbat 133b;on peace, Job 25:2; Sifra be-hukotai; Sifre Naso.

[9]T.B. Shabbat 151b; Genesis Rabbah 33;on compassion as the determining characteristic as to whether a person is really a Jew, see T.B. Bezah 32b; on the pain of animals, see T.B. Shabbat 128b.

[10]T.B. Sotah 14a; Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7, statement of Rabbi Judah.

[11]M. Avot 1:15; 3:16; Talmud Yerushalmi Eruvin 5:1.

[12]Genesis Rabbah 24, statement of Ben Azai; M. Avot 4:3.

[13]M. Avot 1:6.

[14]T.B. Berakhot 60; T.B. Ta’anit 21.

[15]Leviticus 19:18; Sifra Kedoshim; Avot of Rabbi Nathan 16; on love and fulfillment of needs, see Sefer Orhot Tsaddikim, op. cit., ch. 5, 46ff.

[16]M. Avot 4: 1,3; 2:15.

[17]Leviticus 19:16: Ps. 34:13; on a range of language-related values, see R. Yitshak Abohav, Menorat ha-Maor (n.d.; rpt. Jerusalem: Mossad HaRav Kuk, 1961), 94-172.

[18]T.B. Shabbat 119b.

[19]M. Avot 5:20; see T.B. Hullin 89b on the capacity to contain one’s rage in the midst of conflict.

[20] “Criticism leads to peace….All peace that does not involve criticism is not peace.” Genesis Rabbah 54, in the name of Resh Lakish.

[21]T.B. Sanhedrin 6b.

[22]Deut. 10:19; T.B. Bava Mezia 59b. The biblical ger, stranger, has been interpreted to mean “convert” in rabbinic Judaism. But this is debatable because the rabbinic category of ger toshav, resident stranger, may refer to a much larger group of non-Jews who abide by basic moral laws. See T.B. Avodah Zarah 64b.

[23]See T.B. Yuma 9b on destruction in Jewish life coming from wanton hatred.

[24]T.B. Yoma 23b.

[25] T.B. Bava Metsia 58b.

[26]M. Avot 1:17; 6:6.

[27]Avot of Rabbi Nathan (version A), ch. 12.

[28]M. Derekh Erets Zuta 5;7.

[29]M. Kallah, statement of R. Nehorai; T.B. Berakhot 43b; T.B. Bava Metsia 58b.

[30]M. Avot 1: 18.

[31]Leviticus Rabbah 9; Perek HaShalom.

[32]See T. B. Yevamot 14a, on the relationship of the house of Hillel and the house of Shamai; Numbers Rabbah 13; T.B. Eruvin 13b.

[33] Avot of Rabbi Nathan (version B), ch. 24.

[34]M. Avot 4:1.

[35]Ex. 23:5; Exodus Rabbah 30:1; see the discussion in Reuven Kimelman, “Nonviolence in the Talmud,” Judaism, v. 17 (1968), 318-319.

[36]T.B. Bava Metsia 49b; T.B. Makkot 24, story on R. Safrah.

[37]M. Avot 2:15.

[38]M. Avot 4:23; T.B. Berakhot 7a.

[39]T.B. Berakhot 17a.

[40]See note 24 above on repentance.

[41]Deut. 16:20; Zeph. 2:3; Otsar Midrashim, Midrash Hashkem, p. 183.

[42]Avot of Rabbi Nathan 15:1; 17:2; Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto (1707-1746), Sefer Mesilat Yesharim (rpt. Jerusalem/ New York: Feldheim Publishers, 1969), ch. 19.

[43]Otsar Midrashim, Midrash Migadol le-Gedulah, p. 78.

[44]T.B. Bava Metsia 32b; Sefer Orhot Tsadikim, ch. 8; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Murder, 13:1.

[45]Lev. 19:17; T.B. Erkhin 16a.

[46]Deut. 16:19; M. Pe’ah 8:9.

[47]M. Avot 4:1; 2:7.

[48]T.B. Perek HaShalom.

[49]M. Avot 4:1; T.B. Berakhot 17a; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance.

[50]M. Derekh Erets Rabbah; M. Derekh Erets Zuta; Rabbi Yitshak Abohav (14th century), Menorat ha-Meor, ed. J. Horeb & M. Katznelbogen (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kuk, 1961), 699-735 on the role of civility in conflict prevention, and generally 696-747 on “the ways of peace and love”.

[51]T.B. Berakhot 17a.

[52]See, for example, Francis Hutcheson, An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections with Illustrations upon the Moral Sense (London, 1728). Other key figures included the Third Earl of Shaftesbury, David Hume and Adam Smith.

[53]It is interesting to note that R. Akiva (c. 110-135 C.E.) considered this the preeminent principle of Judaism. However, his contemporary Ben Azzai stated that the most important principle is the idea that every human being is created in the image of God, and is therefore invaluable. It is superior as a principle to the love principle, lest, “…someone say, ‘since I have been abused, let my fellow human being be abused, since I have been cursed let my fellow human being be cursed.” Genesis Rabbah 24. R. Tanhuma adds, ad loc., ‘If you do this (abuse others), know who you are abusing: …in the image of God He made him [Genesis 5:1]’. We have here, in a nutshell, what might be the thought patterns of abused people the world over who, despite a good conscience, feel that, from the point of view of justice, if they have been unloved and abused why should they treat others any differently. This statement by Ben Azzai is meant to contradict that tendency of feeling within the Jewish people of his time. It means that the only way that a Jewish person could devalue another human being would be to consider him or her not really created in the image of God, not really human, which manifestly contradicts the sacred text.

[54] See a fine example of contemporary rabbinic hermeneutics on the relationship of honor for all people as a way of protecting human life, Micha Odenheimer, “Honor or Death,” Jerusalem Report IX:22 (March 1, 1999): 25.

[55]B.R. Brown, “Face-Saving and Face-Restoration in Negotiation,” in Negotiations, ed. D. Druckman (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1977), 275-299.

[56] Psalms 34:15.

[57]See Marc Gopin, “Is There a Jewish God of Peace?” in The Challenge of Shalom, ed. Murray Polner and Naomi Goodman (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1994), 32-39.

[58] On the violence of some of the priestly families, see T.B. Pesahim 57.

[59]Avot of Rabbi Nathan 12:3.

[60]Otsar Midrashim, Midrash Gadol u’Gedulah p. 78, s.v. perek.

[61] This is probably based on the rabbinic idea that while someone is in a rage it is best not to respond to him or her, but to wait until the heat of anger is gone, and more conciliatory language can be used. See note 60 on she’at ka’aso.

[62] M. Kallah Rabbati, ch. 3. The Rabbis are, like many other cultural figures around the world, extremely attuned to issues of dignity. This is hard to understand in the crass culture of industrialized society, and this misunderstanding is the frequent cause of inter-cultural conflict, particularly between those who dwell in large urban centers and those who live in more traditional, less populated settings. Apparently, in rabbinic culture, even the act of engaging in other people’s conflicts involves some loss of dignity, perhaps because a concerned outsider is so often rebuffed or even abused by parties to a conflict.

[63] I leave aside here the inappropriateness of this story as a model for any contemporary solution to a marital crisis. Any husband who throws his wife out of the house can and should be subject to prosecution if he does not come to some more equitable way to separate, if that is what they must do. I urge the reader to see the moral tale in its context, suspend contemporary moral evaluations temporarily, in order to see the pro-social message of the story that is intended to teach mediators how they should behave. We do not use it as a role-model a husband’s behavior or a contemporary solution to that behavior.

[64]I am caricaturing to a degree the contemporary model. For example, I have studied and watched a Jewish divorce mediator whose emotional involvement during the mediation process is quite clear. He shares why this work is so important to him, and he goes out of his way to evoke emotions by mentioning and frequently talking about the children that will be affected by the settlement or lack thereof. He does this only to bring the full emotional reality of the process into the mediation, rather than suppressing it.

[65]R. Bush & J. Folger, The Promise of Mediation (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994); cf. Bruce McKinney, “A Critical Analysis of Transformative Mediation,” Peace Research 29:1 (February, 1997): 41-52.

[66]As a contemporary example, Leah Green, based on the work of Gene Knudsen Hoffman on compassionate listening, has initiated the Middle East Compassionate Listening Project, based in Indianola, WA. It has brought a variety of American Jews to the West Bank and Israel to engage in listening to the full spectrum of Israeli and Palestinian points of view, without engaging in debate, but simply in the discipline of listening. They are one of the only groups, to my knowledge, that listens actively to settlers as well as the more radical Muslims on the West Bank. The Fellowship of Reconciliation also has an extensive program of Compassionate Listening projects.

[67]See John Paul Lederach, Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies (Tokyo: United Nations University, 1994), 26.

[68]Exodus 23:5; Deuteronomy 22:4; see also, Proverbs 25:21.

[69]See Reuven Kimelman, “Nonviolence in the Talmud,” Judaism vol. 17 (1968), 318ff. for the rabbinic sources.

[70]See Vamik Volkan, The Need to Have Enemies and Allies, op. cit..

[71]Enormous amounts of human and financial resources are applied globally to fighting a variety of forms of injustice involving women, children, abused classes or races of people, prisoners, laborers, and more. Much of it is focused on the poor and the inherent injustices of social structures. This is vital work, but it sometimes induces not only constructive conflict–which is necessary–but unnecessarily adversarial and destructive forms of confrontation. The latter cause many backlashes of a violent sort that just perpetuate the cycle of violence and injustice. The fact is that justice seeking and peace seeking are often at odds with each other, and analysts need to confront this and suggest integrated models of social change. The conflictual styles of many people in justice advocacy, at least in this country, are quite notorious. Indeed, part of this stems from a mistaken model of social change that required the demonization of one group of people, and the exaggerated innocence of another group. The real world has never been that simple, and, more importantly, such a psychological construct is guaranteed to perpetuate the very injustices and violence that one is combating. Gandhi and King understood perfectly the delicate balance of resistance to injustice and the art of peacemaking. Many of those who engage in this work, especially when rigidified by institutionalization, do not, and they need more guidance from ethicists and conflict analysts. See my “Conflict Resolution and International Development: Conflict or Cooperation?”, in Conflict Resolution and Social Injustice, ed. R. Rubenstein and F. Blechman (forthcoming).

[72] Avot of Rabbi Nathan 23:1.

[73]T.B. Ta’anit 67a.

[74]See T.B. Yoma 86b; Maimonides (1135-1204), Mishneh Torah, Book of Knowlege, Laws of Teshuva, ch. 2.

[75]See his gloss on Maimonides, ad loc.

[76] Cf. to Islam, where generosity in debt disputes that were arbitrated by Muhammad, was seen as a central way to bring about peace between enemies (Hadith Sahih Bukhari 3.49.868-870).

[77]See T.B. Rosh ha-Shanah 16b and Kesef Mishneh commentary to Maimondes, ad loc., Laws of teshuva 2:4.

[78]Maimonides, ad loc., Laws of teshuva 2:4.

[79]Several years ago I was working with American teenagers who came to Washington to be educated about politics. I repeatedly ask these teenagers the following question, “How many people died in the Vietnam War?”. I constantly got the answer 50,000. The collective American memory to which they had been acculturated eliminated the two million-plus Asians who were killed in the war. I said ‘people’, but they heard me say ‘Americans’.

[80]See n. 42 above on the concept of tokhaha.

[81]The effects of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions presently emerging are complex, especially in view of the political and military circumstances that require their creation. It is, however, an important development that requires a separate study.

[82]Shai Franklin, “Victim’s Gold Deserves Proper Burial,” Letter to the Editor, Washington Jewish Week, May 29, 1997, 19.

[83]See Daniel Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man (Berkeley: University of Berkeley Press, 1997);idem, “Homotopia: The Feminized Jewish Man and the Lives of Women in Late Antiquity,” Differences 7:2 (1995).

[84]Avot of Rabbi Nathan 23:1.

[85]This requires a much larger discussion of early rabbinic efforts to create or recreate the ideal Jewish man in terms of Torah study and a very restrained, semi-monastic lifestyle, and their undermining the role of men as warriors that was popular in competing sects of the Second Temple period. This does not mean that the Rabbis were pacifists, although some were. See Kimelman, “Nonviolence in the Talmud,” op. cit. But there was a clear shift in emphasis toward a certain kind of peacemaking Jewish man. This then set the stage for some prevailing images of the Jewish man for many centuries to come, with some notable exceptions in Spain and elsewhere. The next major shift in Jewish male identity comes with the Enlightenment, the Emancipation, Jewish entry into various militaries, and, of course, the new Jewish man, the Zionist halutz. All of this history will have to be confronted as Jewish culture faces in the future the question of what the ideal Jewish man is. This is brought into sharp relief in contemporary Israeli culture where one part of the culture views manhood as essentially related to universal military service while the haredi part views manhood in a completely different way, with both groups of men deeply resenting the others’ definition of manhood. Furthermore, for entirely secular reasons, many Israeli youth are beginning to question the centrality of the army in their male identities.

© Marc Gopin