Radio Show

The Importance of Compromise With Rabbi Brad Hirschfield

While Brett Siddell was on his honeymoon, best friend of the show Rabbi Brad Hirschfield joined Father Dave as guest co-host for a special episode! Inspired by recent political events, they discuss Rabbi Brad’s recent essay for Forward entitled, “The Debt Ceiling Compromise Reflects Deep Jewish Wisdom.

“It seems to be in our current [political] model, that compromise is something that people refuse to do. Certainly there are things that you and I, as people devout in our faith, would say, ‘I don’t compromise on X,Y, and Z,’” Father Dave begins. “But to go through life, either in a marriage or in a Congress with people elected from lots of different places, and never think that compromise will be had or needed at all is fairly unrealistic.”

Rabbi Brad praises both President Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy for agreeing to a deal despite their differences. He says, “My basic contention going into this is that anyone who compromises on everything always is committed to nothing; it’s actually quite dangerous. I’m about to use a very loaded theological term, [but] someone who says that nothing can be compromised ever is guilty of idolatry.” 

LISTEN: Fatherly Advice: Dealing With Political Division

“The word is given by God to different communities as an infinite source, but we’re finite,” he continues. “The moment we say, ‘Not only is the word a gift from God, but we are in full possession and clear understanding of everything it says, so nothing can ever change from our current understanding?’ That’s idolatry. Just like a stone idol can’t move, is fixed, has no ability to be interpreted as opposed to the living word of a living God.” 

Rabbi Brad also connects our need to compromise with Scripture. He quotes Deuteronomy 16:20 and says, “‘Justice, justice you shall pursue.’ The most significant word in that verse to me is ‘pursuit.’ Everyone loves to invoke justice, they know what it is, they know what it looks like…The genius of the Bible is it says ‘justice, justice, you should pursue,’ not ‘justice Justice you should achieve.’” 

RELATED: 7 Steps for Navigating Challenging Conversations

“The Bible’s not squeamish about giving commandments. If the Bible wanted us to achieve justice as a fixed and static thing, I’m pretty sure the good Lord Almighty would have revealed the commandment as ‘Justice, justice you should achieve,’ now go do it,” Rabbi Brad continues. “Instead it teaches us ‘justice, justice you should pursue,’ because justice, like any great aspiration, is on the move. You’re always chasing it, you’re always pursuing it. It’s not static.”

He also cautions not to confuse compromise with relativism. “That’s clearly not the tradition that any of us are rooted in,” Rabbi Brad says. “But how beautiful is that? I’m deeply rooted, and at the same time, I know that what can work in one context may not work in another. And at the end of our deliberations, we are willing to entertain those conversations, are willing to take seriously people who disagree with us, and are willing to find some possible way to both be ourselves and live with others who are not just like us.”