Being right doesn’t excuse you from feeling compassion

Appreciating another person’s position is not the same as condoning their behaviour.

Understanding why someone does something isn’t justifying their reasons for doing it.

In interpersonal relationships, we often encounter conflict and discord. Our inability to see eye to eye on an issue need not escalate into a full-blown war, both on a micro as well as a macro level. Issues are issues and people are people, but when we start confusing these and fail to see the wood for the trees, what started as a specific problem can develop into a full-blown conflict, with all its collateral damage.

What is often forgotten in the midst of conflict is the trait of compassion: “Might makes right”.

While this may be true on a practical level, when it comes to interacting on a personal level, compassion and understanding are key. Often we hide behind the fact that we are right to prevent ourselves from feeling empathy for the other side.

At every Pesach seder we spill some wine from our glasses when we recite the 10 plagues. The custom developed as a sign of compassion; because there was enormous human suffering, we could not allow our own cups to “runneth over”.

Take a moment to reflect on this concept. The Egyptians were the first to institute ethnic cleansing on an industrial scale. Our children were ripped from our arms and thrown to a watery grave. Our lives were filled with bitterness and misery. Finally, after 400 years, justice is being served. The once mighty are now being humbled, the downtrodden lifted out of their wretchedness.

Surely now is the time to celebrate?

No! Just because we are right it does not mean we should ignore the suffering and plight of others. At this time, genuine compassion is needed, especially for our enemies − not to excuse them of wrongdoing, but rather to ensure that we do not become like them.

We can, and must, feel sadness and compassion for grieving mothers and children, for those whose lives are in turmoil and futures uncertain. We need to feel torn that we must impose harsh conditions on a population, when the sins are only of the few. It doesn’t mean that we should stop doing what we are doing, in the interests of our families, but we shouldn’t be relishing it either.

About the Author
Rabbi Krebs was born to a traditional family in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 1997 he and his entire family moved to Sydney where he studied a BCom -Finance and Information Systems- at the University of New South Wales. It was during this time that he decided to explore his Jewish roots and spent time at Yeshiva in the old city of Jerusalem. Upon completing his degree Rabbi Krebs made Aliya to Israel where he has served in the Israeli defence force. He initially studied in the famed Yeshivat Har Etzion under the tutelage of Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein. His subsequently began studying for his semicha under Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Rabbi Chaim Brovender at Yeshivat Hamivtar, Efrat. In 2007 Rabbi Krebs was appointed as the fulltime Rabbi of Kehillat Masada. He is a qualified Psychotherapist and Professional mediator.