Chaim came back from a long trip to Minsk. “Minsk is a crazy city!” he told his friends.

“Why?” they asked.

“Well, in Minsk I found a socialist, a communist, a Zionist, a Bundist, a leftist, a rightist, a devout religious man, a secular humanist, a closed-minded in-the-box person and a freethinker!”

His friends didn’t understand: “But isn’t that a normal community, where you have different people with different ideas?!”

“Ah,” said Chaim, “you don’t understand: this was all the same person!”

We are a nation who argues. A lot.

From ancient history, when Abraham and Moses argued with the divine, to the present, where the bricks and cement of synagogues and Jewish social halls vibrate from the sound of verbal battle on the widest spectrum of subjects, from how-cold-is-it-really-outside-including-the-windchill to the solution to world hunger.

Life as we know it: I say yes, you say no.

But then we hear the cries for peace: “Why must we argue?” “All problems arise from disagreement!” “If we would all agree to agree, life would be so simple and harmonious.” Tell me about it.

Where did this notion that we must think alike originate from? Where in Torah or in common sense is there any hint to the notion that we must all think alike?

Yes, there are fundamental premises that are not up for debate. One may not kill. We must believe in one G‑d. Adultery is forbidden, Hamas is a terror organization, and Holocaust denial is the work of the Satan and cannot be college campus debate material. On these we all agree. (We better!)

But for almost everything else, from the role of government to the difference between a manager and a leader, and the plethora of other issues that keep our pundits, journalists and talk-show hosts’ mouths and pockets loaded—these are part of a healthy society.

This week we read the story of the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. In Exodus 19:1 we read that after arriving at Sinai, “there Israel camped opposite the mountain.”

Says Rashi: “At all their other encampments, the verse says vayachanu [‘and they camped,’ in the plural]; here it says vayichan [‘and he camped,’ in the singular]. For all other encampments were in argument and conflict, whereas here they camped as one man, with one heart.”

Notice that Rashi uses the expression “one heart.” No mention of “one brain.” There is no evidence that for the sake of peace the Jews let go of their opinions!

Mouth-shutting due to the fear that “it’s gonna cause a fight” is not, and never was, a Jewish concept.

Our history is full of rabbis and teachers debating, arguing, and defending their ideas. The Talmud is but a microcosm of hundreds of years of debate on a myriad of topics. It is a part of our psyche. Jews argue, and that is a good thing.

True, debate must remain in the realm of objective discussion, where we argue about the message, not the messenger. While we may dispute ideas and disagree with the other’s opinion, we must always have respect for our opponent as a human being, as a Jew. But within the framework of fair debate—we are lifetime members.