Elu v’Elu: The Sacred Power and Limits of Conscience
Rabbi David Edleson D.Div
For three years Rabbi Shammai and Rabbi Hillel disagreed. One said: The law is in accordance with our opinion, and the others also said: The halakha is in accordance with our opinion. Finally, a Divine Voice emerged and proclaimed: Both these and those [Elu v’Elu] are the words of the living God. Conscience is a powerful thing, one that Emerson so famously explored in Self-Reliance. At the same time, a passionate conviction that one is right and doing good and holy work is shared by both the BLM protesters and those who stormed the capital. So Conscience is important, but democracy can quickly be turned by fear, trend or anger. How then do we balance the principle of Conscience when it buts up against other core principles?
Rabbi David Edleson grew up going to synagogue, church, and to Unitarian Fellowships in the deep south. His experiences of anti-Semitism were also formative. Born into an assimilated Jewish family, David was removed as drum major of the band in high school because parents didn’t “want a Jew leading the band down Main Street.” David became very active in the Jewish community, was president of his college Hillel at William and Mary, and after living and working as a Jewish educator in Jerusalem, was ordained by Hebrew Union College in 1990. David currently serves as the rabbi at Temple Sinai in South Burlington, Vermont. David grew up in rural Georgia where he met his husband Tim in ninth grade; they now live with their standard poodle Ginsberg in a house they built by hand in Lincoln.