Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Haaretz has a truly bizarre op-ed from a prominent rabbi, Daniel Landes, who should know better.
Some sort of compromise might be offered at some point by the Israeli government coalition’s minions to stop the unprecedented upheaval we in Israel are living through: mass streets protests, the hemorrhaging of high-tech investment money and pilots and other military reservists refusing on moral grounds to show up for reserve duty.

While over half of the country yearns for an end to our ever-growing, overwhelming existential anxiety, compromise offers must be greeted with skepticism.

Such admonition can seem surprising since we are used to compromise – pesharah – as a Jewish response to legal conflict.

But pay attention, the Talmudic enterprise also contains a warning: compromise is often not the answer.

...But then the question remained as to whether the court itself should invite a judicially mediated pesharah.

Many rabbis not only rejected that idea, but they explicitly forbade it. Evidently, the court was reserved for attempting to achieve absolute truth and was not the place for getting people to “just agree,” which would imply a tampering with rectitude to solve the situation.

Pesharah, compromise, was labeled as bitzu'a, signaling a truncated judgment, or even connoting a kind of swindle or profit. And thus they applied the verse (Ps. 10:3): "One who praises the compromiser despises God."
Clearly, Landes knows the Jewish arguments for compromise, but he argues that in some cases it is absolutely wrong. And somehow he determines that a compromise on judicial reform is in that category, seemingly because there is "profit" to the Israeli Right by such a compromise and profit, he claims, invalidates the reasons to want compromise.

The profit he defines is not monetary, but social - Haredim will continue to avoid army service, as they have since Israel was led by Labor; religious Zionists can build more communities in Judea and Samaria (ditto), and so forth.

For some reason he doesn't mention the "profit" to the Left of keeping the High Court as powerful as it is. Nor does he admit that pretty much everyone agrees that the judicial system in Israel has too much power, the only disagreement is how much it should have.

The crazy part is that this is not an issue for halacha (Jewish law) to begin with. It is political. Both sides have good points, neither has the monopoly on truth. The biggest danger to Israel isn't judicial reform, but the insane political split that this fairly complex argument that perhaps only 5% of Israelis (and far fewer American Jews) understand had prompted. 

Both sides have used this issue as an excuse for hardening their positions, for demonizing their opponents, and for splitting the nation. 

And this rabbi - who surely knows more about Judaism than I do - is arguing that such a split is Judaically preferable to any victory, even a partial victory, by his political opponents!

No, that is not the Judaism that I know.  

Moment Magazine asked a question of various rabbis recently: "Is Political Compromise a Jewish Value?" Nearly al the rabbis agreed, of course, political compromise is indeed a Jewish value!

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg (Modern Orthodox)

Political (also economic and social) compromise is prized in Jewish tradition. The Talmud states that a mediated settlement—that is, one in which both sides feel they have gotten some of their just due—is a better outcome than a strict judgment that hands a victory to one side (Sanhedrin 6b). Without compromise, the overruled side may feel alienated and left out. This undermines the will to live together that enables a stable, functioning, productive society (just as the breakdown of bipartisanship and mutual respect between liberals and conservatives in America today threatens the viability of our democracy)....Over the course of history, the covenantal halacha often prescribed not the ideal behavior but the best possible policy that kept people working together. 
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein (Orthodox):

There are times when compromise or appeasement is a desecration of God’s name, and other cases where a refusal to compromise brings disaster. There’s no formula, other than blunt honesty as to whether the decision to compromise reflects the honor of heaven rather than a personal agenda.
Rabbi Haim Ovadia (Sephardic):
I personally believe that compromise in any field, not just political, is a Jewish virtue, though any proof I provide could be contested. Many classic sources suggest that compromise is the ideal path when there is a dispute. ...When we insist on doing things our way against others’ will, we may win, but the others will be left with a sense of bitterness and animosity which could easily be later aroused. When we compromise, we may make more people happy, and that, I believe, is a Jewish virtue.
Rabbi Levi Shemtov (Chabad):
Political compromise, unlike religious compromise, is usually a wonderful thing.

While compromising halachic standards—even to address pressing needs—has almost always led to adoption of the more lax standard, and must therefore be avoided whenever possible, personal or political compromise, especially for the sake of peace, has always been lauded by the Torah and even by G-d.
Lately, conviviality is in short supply, particularly in the political arena. Whether in public policy, business, marriage or relationships generally, calming down and taking a respectful look at the other side is virtuous, even if you continue to disagree.

The country, the world and all of us would significantly benefit from seeing our leaders talk to instead of at each other, as was prevalent only a few decades ago. Don’t compromise who you are, but let who you are be one who is open to appropriate dialogue and compromise. It ultimately brings you greater strength.
Is Rabbi Daniel Landes motivated by what is best for the Jewish people and Israel, or by narrow political considerations?

The fact that he calls the people who are discussing compromise from the Right "minions" seems to indicate the latter. And that is very disappointing from a person who founded an institution, YASHRUT, that is  meant to "build civil discourse through a theology of integrity, justice, and tolerance."

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