Balancing Reality With Principle

Rabbi Ethan Tucker

Part 5

Families are one of the most fundamental units of human life. Our parents raise us, our spouses share an adult life with us, and our extended relatives often define our sense of home and identity. More broadly, our friends ground our most basic interpersonal experiences and it can be hard to understand ourselves outside of these relationships.

Yet, in an open, pluralistic society that emphasizes romantic love, we often cannot assume aligned observance in even our most intimate and defining relationships. When our commitments to observance and our relationships conflict, how should we proceed? Are interpersonal dynamics of little or no religious consequence, such that the mitzvot must always trump the facts of our social reality, even at the price of destroying relationships? Or do relationships have their own religious gravity, around which the time and space of halakhah is necessarily and obviously distorted?

Should we think of relationships as fixed points that need to be accommodated irrespective of our potentially idiosyncratic covenantal commitments? Or are true relationships ones that start from a place of deeply internalizing the convictions of the other and are false or destructive when they do not?

In this series, Rabbi Ethan Tucker will explore how to balance covanental commitment with relationships with parents (Parts 1-2), spouses (Parts 3-4), and friends (Parts 5-6).