In the wake of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the internet version of the Jerusalem Post polled several rabbis in the USA and in Israel about how Jewish law and ethics can richen our understanding of the conflict between the misconduct claims and opposing claims of innocence. Considering the topic, the resulting review should have been enlightening. Instead, the outcome was dismally predictable. From the “many faces of the Torah” what emerged was the binary nature of partisan politics. If Democrat, side with Ford, and if Republican support Kavanaugh.
Certainly, there are good reasons to go either way. On one hand, to believe that such a serious charge should be supported by some corroborating evidence seems reasonable, yet since the Supreme Court is the highest in the USA it is a primary concern that the judges be beyond doubt in their personal and public behavior. Yet the division in the Senate, where the Republicans hold the narrowest margin of a majority and the Democrats are expecting to become the prominent party after the November elections have made the choice between him and her, into a purely partisan matter. “Kavanaugh” is red, and “Ford” is blue.
As for our good rabbis, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the president of the Coalition for Jewish Values, is adamant that charges need to be backed by two witnesses. He is tagged also as a supporter of President Donald Trump. No surprise. Rabbi Hara Person is the chief strategy officer for the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis. She advocates drawing out the investigative process, assumingly till Kavanaugh either withdraws or till the Republicans lose their majority in the Senate. Rabbi Hara Person is the chief strategy officer for the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis and she prefers nixing Kavanaugh’s appointment because a “judge should be beyond reproach”. Thankfully the other rabbis quoted, (of which 3 of 4 were also from “liberal” branches of Judaism) took a middle route and endorsed neither side. All quoted “living Torah”, but, somehow, something seems amiss.
For while it is possible, even laudatory, to seek different perspectives on ethical matters through delving into the Torah or the Talmud, there is, in the end, only one set of facts for us to decide which of the protagonists is stating the truth. There can’t be two truths, one for Republicans and one for Democrats, that contradict one the other. A choice must be made, and I have made mine: I believe Kavanaugh.
First, I realize that my choice can always be criticized as being based on partisan politics and not facts. I can argue that Kavanaugh has a public service record going back 25 years with no (as I have read) complaints due to his behavior, I can also argue that there are too many holes in Ford’s story to justify ruining a man’s reputation and ending his career. Yet in the end, no amount of reasoning will convince a dead set Democrat or worse, the misandrous woman on Facebook who is unable to tolerate “any white male, excluding my white Labrador”. Some people cannot be argued with.
Second, my support for Kavanaugh is tenuous. It is plausible that Ford and Kavanaugh met in the early 1980’s. After all, if Kavanaugh is the beneficiary of “white privilege”, so is Ford. They circulated, in the least, in parallel circles, if not intersecting ones. Plausible does not mean probable, but if enough evidence is shown that the two did indeed meet or if enough evidence can be brought to show that Kavanaugh has been less than forthright, then his chances of becoming a Supreme Court Justice will recede or disappear.
As for the Senate, I truly hope that the final vote won’t be totally on party lines. I hope that enough Democrats will cross the lines and vote favorably (if, of course, that is merited) with the majority, or that Republicans will defect if they see that Kavanaugh is disqualified. A decision on purely partisan lines is a sign that the process is flawed and worse, that the flaw is in ourselves.
Partisan politics is akin to a shouting match, not a discussion and for many of us it is either too difficult or threatening to examine another point of view different than our own. This is sad because true growth and learning can only come from challenging accepted views and synthesizing (as in thesis, antithesis, and synthesis) new ones. It is possible and worth the effort. The alternative is a harmful stalemate and stagnation. Hopefully, the Senate will show that it is possible of more than the last few weeks have shown us.