Truths Both in Theory and Application

I was gratified to see my good friend Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer — whose writings have always made me thankful for his pen — address the “Open Letter” that a handful of people, myself included, signed and published recently.

The letter, incidentally, was not disseminated widely for signatures before its signing; only a few people whom we suspected to be of like mind were asked to sign on. Our intention was not to create an authoritative position paper but rather a simple stimulus to discussion. Which it seems to have indeed become, much to our delight.

Also incidentally, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky’s interview was not known to us when our letter, which was the product of months of preparation and re-writing, was published. It most certainly was not any reaction to the Rosh Yeshiva, shlit”a’s words, challilah; and nothing in Rav Shmuel’s suggestion contradicts anything in our letter.

Rabbi Gordimer seems to agree with all of our letter’s points. But he contends that his agreement with it is only “in theory” and asserts that “in application, things are different.”

I’m honestly puzzled by what he means. The following points are either true or not, and Rabbi Gordimer seems to agree with us that they’re the former.

1) We should not lionize deeply flawed people. Both because of the corrosive effect it has on us and because of the pernicious message it sends our young. Society’s hashpa’ah directly or otherwise, on those entrusted to us is more important than ever these challenging days.

2) We should support candidates for public office whose positions we find worthy — even if the candidate is an unsavory character. People should vote for whoever they feel is the best choice for Klal Yisrael and the country, even if it means holding one’s nose, so to speak, when casting a ballot.

3) Many politicians of various stripes, particularly on the national scene, speak and act in ways that are — whether to lesser or greater degrees — morally corrosive or otherwise offensive to Torah-faithful Jews.

4) Such politicians are nothing new, although things have gotten much worse with time.

5) The Torah is the only source for a faithful Jew’s actions and beliefs. As a result, embracing any party or political philosophy wholesale is not justified.

6) Supporting a party or candidate because of a position on one issue should not prevent us from opposing them on other issues.

7) We should work with, and certainly not shun or antagonize, any elected officials, regardless of their party, political philosophies or personal behavior, especially when an official is in a position to make decisions that will affect our lives.

Hence my puzzlement. Does Rabbi Gordimer, no less than we, accept the above as true, both in theory and “in application”? And if not, in what way?

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