Hirschfield’s Quadrant – Balance of Impulses

***Excerpts taken from Chapter 4 of Rabbi Brad Hirshfield’s book ‘You Don’t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right‘.

Hirschfield’s Quadrant (A Circle with 4 quadrants)

Imagine setting up a new paradigm, one in which there are two axes, with revenge and forgiveness running along the horizontal, and justice and mercy running along the vertical” (Hirschfield, pg 91)

“Part of what makes us human is that we are not above taking revenge and bearing a grudge, and it’s interesting that the bible prohibits both of these things in chapter 19 of Leviticus…This prohibition in Leviticus directly precedes the directive to love one’s neighbor as oneself” (Hirschfield, pg 92)

“The basis of any just legal system – not to mention any healthy relationship – is that we should be treated equally. Without that expectation, why should we expect a reciprocal relationship?” (Hirschfield, pg 93)

Justice/Revenge

“That is what the marriage the quadrant of the marriage of justice and revenge is all about. You did something to me, which justifies me doing it to you…the marriage of justice and revenge is always a death spiral. We know that all it does is give us just enough moral high ground to do to other people precisely what we wouldn’t want done to us” (Hirschfield, pg 93)

Revenge/Mercy

“Indulging our inclination toward revenge is not such a good thing…The bible tells us to be aware that while the urge for vengeance can be legitimate, acting on the urge is not” (Hirschfield, pg 96)

“The key lies in our ability to merge the impulse toward revenge with the capacity for mercy. When that happens we build cities of refuge, sometimes in the world and sometimes in our own hearts” (Hirschfield, pg 97)

Forgiveness/Justice

“The rabbi’s insist that execution is an appropriate response, in principle, to a horrific crime; but they teach that any court that carries out that sentence even once in 7 years is a terrorist court…Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah teaches that the death penalty must not be given even once in 70 years and Rabbi’s Akiva and Tarfon teach that if it were up to them the death penalty would never be imposed at all” (Hirschfield, pg 99)

“The theory behind the death penalty is something I support. But justice is never pure…Unless you claim to be that authority yourself, then the demands of justice and forgiveness invite us to keep the death penalty on the books but almost never use it, if we use it all” (Hirschfield, pg 99)

“The truth is never that simple or one-sided. Any time we think it is, we should be extremely careful about what actions we take in the name of that kind of truth. According to the Mishna, that kind of truth is actually dangerous, while the willingness to live with doubt is sacred” (Hirschfield, pg 100)

Mercy/Forgiveness

“The overlap of forgiveness and mercy is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the overlap of justice and revenge. Instead of what I won’t do for you because of what you wouldn’t do for me, or what I am entitled to do to you because of what you did to me, here we have what I will do for you because of what I hope one day you will do for me in return, even if that never comes to pass…it is the only one of our four combinations that entirely depends on us” (Hirschfield, pg 102)

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12 thoughts on “Hirschfield’s Quadrant – Balance of Impulses

  1. ““Indulging our inclination toward revenge is not such a good thing…The bible tells us to be aware that while the urge for vengeance can be legitimate, acting on the urge is not” (Hirschfield, pg 96)”

    have you heard of mimetic theory?

  2. “Do you have a reference for where the Torah teaches if a whole jury votes for a death penalty the person is to be set free as justice could not be served? I couldn’t find it on my own.” (Dagoods)

    Actually, and this is kind of funny, if you look at the blog posting above this – Hirschfield’s Quadrant (which I am not sure any people on here have read yet) – Hirschfield points out this exact same thing Yael mentioned – it’s from rabbinical literature (including Akiva). It’s a witness to what she is saying is in fact true (in and of it’s own) – but it must be written somewhere.

    Yael and Mystical Seeker – the matters of forgiveness and the matters of justice are to be debated – even contested – which you both do a great job of – I would also point you both towards Rabbi Hirschfield’s quadrant (the blog above this one) – and you will see this topic is also grasped by him (and his was written concerning the battles between Israeli’s and Palestinians – a conference for peace he spoke at in a Muslim country). He is also a willing voice in the debate – and he needs to be considered.

    However, here is where I stand on this whole forgiveness and justice thing (one of the 4 quadrants mentioned by Rabbi Hirschfield) – it depends on the capacities of ‘us’.

    With Yael, I actually do agree – truest forms of forgiveness for a crime must be between perp and offended – since the crime effects the offended. It’s also the best form of responsibility for the perp – to come face to face with the victim to make amends (what I would call repentance). No other person can take the responsibility for the perp’s crime (unless they were involved in it) – so who is to bare the weight for the responsibiility? I think the Perp.

    As for justice, the law exists to exact just that – make sure the perp pays for the crime against the victim (for some that’s jail or even probation). I think we all demand justice for crimes committed against us – this is a very normal attitude to have – and we need to make sure our safety/self is assured. Justice does that for the victim – and also moves the perp away from society since they are volatile. The laws of the land need to exist to protect us and ensure our safety.

    The problem is when we take justice into our own hands to exact the punishment we see fit (vigilante). We are not allowed to do this in either faith (Judaism or Christianity).

    But can we forgive for the hurt we feel being ‘associated’ to the victim or perp in the crime – yes! We can even forgive the perp for the ‘way we feel’ – but we cannot forgive beyond our means (how others are affected) – that makes no sense. Just as in the same way, we cannot exact justice for ourselves – vengeance is not ours to take.

  3. “have you heard of mimetic theory?” (Luke)

    Not yet – I could research it – but since you are here – explain it to me.

  4. i did two posts on it: http://toothface.blogspot.com/2008/02/things-hidden-since-foundation-of-world.html

    and

    http://toothface.blogspot.com/2008/02/old-way-trodden-by-victim.html

    in a nutshell: it is about the collective murder of an arbitrary victim. So the violence is then endless, obeying the simple law of mimetic reciprocation (vegeance). It was discovered somewhere down the line in this history that peace was re-established through finding and killing a single and common enemy to whom all attributed their misfortune.

    This simple event-killing of one by all- founds soceity, religion, and all other major social institutions.

  5. I’m at work so I don’t have access to reference materials other than the net. Online I found an explanation of the Jewish teachings on capital punishment at Ask Moses. This article references Oral Torah only; Talmud and Choshen Mishpat, but not the Written Torah verses from which these teachings derived. I’ll have to look those up later on at home or shul.

  6. Reading some Icelandic sagas some time will give you a pretty good sense of how the cycle of vengeance can be endless and self-perpetuating. I agree with Hirschfield that “indulging our inclination toward revenge is not such a good thing.” Just because people feel vengeful, should society indulge this desire? Maybe society needs to rise above catering to humanity’s basest urges. That is one reason why civilized societies do not carry out capital punishment (and no, I don’t consider my own country to be civilized).

    The word that I would use for the kind of healing process that would come from a victim’s forgiveness is “reconciliation.” In my view, one of the concepts that comes into play here is the recognition that we are all capable of doing wrong, that all of us have the potential within us to be perpetrators ourselves (and in fact all of us have hurt others in some way or another), and from this springs the possibility of mercy, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Our own human capacity to fail is what, I think, can inspire us to rise above petty revenge and acquire a taste of divine mercy.

    On the other hand, I obviously don’t think that crimes should just be ignored. To me, it is important for the perpetrators to answer for their crimes, for their actions to be publicly condemned. But for me, with this comes the offer of redemption. My interest is not in seeing perpetrators suffer, but in seeing a public accountability for what they did–an acknowledgment that a wrong was accomplished. If someone can have a change of heart, more power to them.

    I am moved by stories of people who did terrible things in their lives and who later in life repented of what they did and who tried to make amends. To me, this, along with the healing of the victim, are the greatest results that one can ask for in the face of wrongdoing.

  7. Societyvs, I agree with both of these statements that you made:

    Truest forms of forgiveness for a crime must be between perp and offended – since the crime effects the offended. It’s also the best form of responsibility for the perp – to come face to face with the victim to make amends (what I would call repentance). No other person can take the responsibility for the perp’s crime (unless they were involved in it) – so who is to bare the weight for the responsibiility? I think the Perp.

    But can we forgive for the hurt we feel being ‘associated’ to the victim or perp in the crime – yes! We can even forgive the perp for the ‘way we feel’ – but we cannot forgive beyond our means

    I agree with both of those statements, Societyvs. As I have stated before, I think that non-victims can forgive, but I absolutely agree with you that this cannot take effect beyond their means, and ultimate healing forgiveness necessarily must occur between the victim and the perpetrator. This gets back to the concept i was suggesting in my previous concept, that of “reconciliation.” I think that all of us can play a role in reconciliation, but of course the healing of wounds that take place in a crime must involve those directly involved.

  8. Hello All

    One thing I find interesting about our need for vengeance, punishment or consequence, is that we are determining what and how that should be meted out. And depending on your life situation, your level of consequence may be quite different than your neighbour. Does anyone think or believe, that maybe the actual consequences that we are to bear, are the ones our physical, emotional and spiritual bodies go through after the crimes we commit. After all who doesnt feel like “SHEIT” when they have done a wrong. And just because you dont believe you have done wrong doesnt mean its not felt within the core of you. I think maybe GOD has made a pretty good system. Though I dont mind having places of incarceration until the perpetrators get enlightened 🙂

  9. I don’t think everyone feels bad about wrongdoing. After Pharaoh made too many wrong choices his heart was hard so that he could no longer choose to do good. So, perhaps for the ‘rookie’ criminals, per se, the conscience still bothers them, but after that I guess I wouldn’t count on it.

    It is quite an interesting point you bring up, however, perhaps something along the lines of what I was reading/writing about yesterday? Etz Chayim points out an interesting verse in Ecclesiastes (4:1): “I returned and contemplated all the acts of oppression that are committed beneath the sun: Behold! Tears of the oppressed with none to comfort them, and their oppressors have the power–with none to comfort them.”

    With my question then being, Why would the oppressors need comfort? Some of my answer perhaps being found in the writings of a former slave, Harriet Jacobs. from her book, Life of a Slave Girl, An Autobiography. “Slavery is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks. It makes the white fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious; it contaminates the daughters, and makes the wives wretched. And as for the colored race, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation….”

  10. “This gets back to the concept i was suggesting in my previous concept, that of “reconciliation.” I think that all of us can play a role in reconciliation, but of course the healing of wounds that take place in a crime must involve those directly involved.” (Mystical)

    I like the idea of reconciliation – the idea healing can happen and situations can be repaired – heck – I have done a lot of that in my life and facilitating that for others (usually in quite casual convo). I think this is the idea of ‘hope’…and we all need hope and wish that for others. It’s a matter of making our ‘wishes come true’ now.

  11. “Some of my answer perhaps being found in the writings of a former slave,” (Yael)

    The dynamic gets a lot more interesting when we delve into national crimes – which involve a lot of individuals versus a lot of other individuals. The concept of forgiveness does get a little more intriguing.

    For example, I am a First Nations person in Canada – and if you know anything about Canada’s history – you will see a definite pattern of oppression from the British/French/and now Canadian authorities against the Aboriginal (First Nations, Metis, and Inuit) peoples. It’s tough being on the oppressed side of the group – the side they dehumanized at one point – but now only ask for our assimilation (a process we have rejected for 100’s of years). One only needs know the Apartheid Act was based on Canadian legislation levelled against Aboriginal people to know the depths of some of this pain.

    But I am part of the collective whole of the Aboriginal group – like an African American in the USA – or a Jewish person concerning the holocaust. The is a sense of real pain for the abuses caused againt your group – a sense of anger does reside – the call for justice in the face of none. The oppressing group can walk away from their collective whole for some reason and pass the buck – not sure why that happens – but the oppressed pass the stories on and never forget. The matter is…how to deal with it all?

    I choose to forgive because I cannot go back to the past and do anything – but I can change the past’s consequences in a meaningful way. Now that includes helping my own group – and delving into their concerns and dealing with the issues therein…but also the movement of ‘reconciliation’. I do not forget the past – the past provides the framework for both sides to work through and acknowledge the abuses that happened and make concerned efforts to ‘right those wrongs’. We might not see real justice for what happened – but that does not mean we cannot move forwards into a more brighter future for all. It is tough to deal with oppression – I can tell ya that.

    I think Yael makes a great point about the slave girl and seeing the need for both sides to acknowledge their needs – to see humanity of the other side restored. That’s the point of national reconciliation in a nutshell.

    But I come from a perspective of the oppressed – and that’s the side I know in depth. I knew the side I needed to – to be able to learn mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and restoration – and the depths of the meaning of those terms in a real world scenario. For some, those are literally ‘words on a page or a doctrine’ – but once you see the oppression and feel it’s pulse – those words – to hold them as something – begin to mean something – and can change one’s very perspective concerning the answers. A lot don’t see it – and we see our jails filled to the brim.

  12. Yael

    People may or may not acknowledge their pain, shame or guilt after hurting others. But dont kid yourself, their bodies dont lie. I work in the health field and I work on bodies all the time. And one of my favourite sayings is ” The body doesnt lie”……..heart rates change, anxieties develop, breathing patterns and the list goes on. I truly believe God made a system with checks and balances, regardless if we “believe” it or not.

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