By Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro
Two neighbors were fighting over a financial dispute. They couldn’t reach an agreement, so they took their case to the local rabbi. The rabbi heard the first litigant’s case, nodded his head and said, “You’re right.”
The second litigant then stated his case. The rabbi heard him out, nodded again and said, “You’re also right.”
The rabbi’s attendant, who had been standing by this whole time, was justifiably confused. “But Rebbe,” he asked, “how can they both be right?”
The rav thought about this for a moment before responding, “You’re right, too!”
There is an important concept in the Jewish understanding of the Torah (Numbers Rabbah 13:15) called “shivim panim l’torah,” which literally means “the Torah has 70 faces.” By faces they mean like on a diamond, not on a 70-faced monster. In other words, like the many glinting faces of a diamond, there are a lot of different viewpoints of any truth that the Torah teaches.
The number 70 is obviously not literal, but rather 70 in Judaism appears over and over and always represents “completion or a complete set.” I believe the inclusive 70 would encompass all kinds of wise people who come together to contemplate and offer their truth on any question or disagreement.
This concept gives Jews the gift of a very open view on pluralism and the idea of truths. You’re right and she’s right…. and you’re also right.
Notice there there are 70 faces, and not infinite faces. There are certainly boundries beyond which lie falsehood and, if harmful, even evil.
Another example of this same concept comes from this statement in the Talmud (Eruvin 13b):
For three years there was a dispute between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel, the former asserting, “Halacha is in accordance with our views,” and the latter contending, “Halacha is in accordance with our views.” Eventually, a bat kol (heavenly voice) rang out and announced, “These and those are both the words of the living G-d – both views represent a valid understanding of Torah law – but in practice, the halacha follows Beis Hillel.”
“Eilu V’Eilu divrei elokim chayim – Your words and your words are both the Words of the Living God.” Practically you end up having to choose a path forward, but your choice by no means invalidates the other’s path.
There are many truths out in the world, and they can co-exist even if they are on the surface contradictory. This is really what the entire Talmud is about – nultiple ways of viewing, understanding, and solving every single complex decision.
So enjoy the upcoming Shabbat and enjoy each other and try to remember that the reality we live in is not 2D, but rather a multifaceted 3D IMAX experience, and may the richness of life always bring you joy.