("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
Once upon a time, in the old Polish countryside, there was a wealthy landowner who had divided his land among his peasants. The peasants worked the land and paid the landowner handsomely for this great opportunity. As was customary, the landowner (Poritz) had a token Jew who acted as intermediary between him and the peasants. Our Poritz loved the Jew who was both smart and devoted to him, and to maintaining the special status that the Jew held.
One day, the Poritz received a special gift of expensive wine from one of the peasants for whom he had done a tremendous favor. “Moshke” he called to the Jew, “come and taste something really good. Here’s what real one is all about .”
The Jew realized that he could not drink the wine. He explained to the Poritz that it was Yayin Nesech – that the wine was non-kosher and he could not drink it. “There is only one exception,” he explained. “If you forced me – as a threat to my life (Pikuach Nefesh), then and only then could I drink this wine.”
The Portiz got the hint. He pulled out his revolver and pointed it at the Jew’s head. “Drink or die,” he ordered.
The Jew immediately drank. The Poritz asked him again, “so was the wine good? Wasn’t it the best thing you ever drank?”
“My master Poritz,” the Jew responded “why don’t you pick up the gun, and tell me you’re going to shoot me again?”
Rav Aharon Kotler ztl. was once approached by a couple of individuals who asked him why he fights Torah and educational battles so hard. “Why not give a little, to get a little?” they asked. Rav Aharon told them this story and added that sometimes compromise is really not compromise, it’s concession.
In our lives as well we’re often called upon to learn the art of compromise. In school we are taught about Senator Henry Clay who was known as “The Great Compromiser” and instructed to see his work as a virtue. We notice bipartisanship and bickering even in the hallowed halls of our United States Congress and among candidates and see it as detrimental to fostering growth and development in this country. In relationships we are told to be flexible if we want the relationship to blossom and not crumble, and we know this to be true.
At the same time, we notice many Jews, on our left and on our right, who have compromised their spiritual and religious teachings and ideals in the name of “compromise” and “synthesis” and are now watching them assimilate and their very core values erode.
It begs the question: When is compromise a good thing to have in our lives, and perhaps a guiding principle? When is it more important to stick to the strict letter of the law and be inflexible?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community.