Thursday, October 01, 2009

Repentance and Negotiation Tactics

One of the principles of negotiation is to never back someone into a corner. Always give the other person a way out because if you don't, they will either surrender or fight back with all their strength. It is with this perspective that R. Yitzchak Abarbanel (Ve-Zos Ha-Berakhah, p. 320) approaches the concept of repentance.

When approaching a city to fight against its inhabitants, the Torah requires us first to ask them peacefully resolve the situation (Deut. 20:10). And even if this fails and we lay siege around the city, we are required to allow inhabitants to escape from one side (see this post: link). The point seems to be the same as above. If you allow them to escape, they will not fight back with full force (see the above post with modern applications).

The Abarbanel explains that God had a similar idea in mind when establishing a system of reward and punishment. If people would be punished for sins then once they sin significantly, they would give up and continue sinning more. If there is no escape from their punishment, they will sin even more. Therefore, God allowed for an escape route from punishment -- repentance. Through this mechanism, people can escape their punishment and therefore will not give up hope and feel forced to surrender to sin.

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