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Mediation in Jewish Midrash - The Mediator as Peacemaker

A friend of mine just called to my attention a wonderful “midrash” – that is, a form of rabbinical storytelling that explores ethics and values in biblical texts — concerning mediation:

“… Alexander of Macedon paid a visit to a king at the end of the world, who showed him much silver and gold. Alexander said, ‘I have not come to see your silver and gold — it is your legal customs I have come to observe.’

“As Alexander and the king were engaged in discourse, two men came before the king for judgment. One said: ‘My lord king, I bought a ruin from this man, and while digging in it, I found a treasure; so I said to him, “Take your treasure. I bought a ruin — I did not buy a treasure.”

“The other replied: ‘Just as you are afraid of the punishment for robbery, so am I afraid of it. The fact is, I sold you the ruin and everything in it — from the depths of the earth to the heights of heaven.’

“The king addressed one of them and asked him, ‘Have you a son?’ He replied, ‘Yes.’ The king asked the other, ‘Have you a daughter?’ He replied, ‘Yes.’

“‘Go then,’ said the king, ‘wed the one to the other, and let the two make use of the treasure.’

“Alexander showed his amazement. The king asked, ‘Why are you amazed? Have I not judged well?’ Alexander: ‘Yes, well.’ The king asked, ‘If such a case had come up before you in your country, how would you have handled it?’ Alexander replied, ‘I would have chopped off the head of the one and the head of the other, and the treasure would have gone to the king’s house.’

“The king: ‘Does the sun shine where you dwell?” Alexander: ‘Yes.’ ‘Does rain come down upon you?’ Alexander: ‘Yes.’ The king: ‘There are small cattle in your country, are there not?’ Alexander: ‘Yes.’

The king: ‘May the breath of life in such a man as you be blasted out! It is only for the sake of the small cattle that the sun still shines for you, that the rain still comes down upon you.’”

[Pesikta de-Rav Kahana 9:1]

There are often a variety of “solutions” to every problem and every dispute. As “peacemakers” we should use our judgment wisely, guiding the parties to choose a solution that will serve everyone’s interest and ultimately promote, not just a resolution, but also the most peace.

Glenn M. Gottlieb is an Attorney-Mediator with Gottlieb Mediation practicing in Los Angeles, CA. More information is available on its website at: Mr. Gottlieb can be reached at:

© Glenn M. Gottlieb. All rights reserved.

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