We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chusim for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.
Last week’s stretch of the week was: Approach someone you would normally not talk to.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Situations Lesson #2
PIRKAY AVOS - ETHICS OF OUR FATHERS
Perek Aleph, Mishna Aleph:
He’vay M’sunim Ba’din – Be Deliberate in Judgment
Story: (based on a true story)
My next-door neighbors are fighting with their next-door neighbors on the other side. I hate when neighbors fight. We all live on the same block and we need to get along, for the sake of our own sanity, but, still, at times, there are some things that seem to divide us. For example, there are driveways.
The Siegelmans, who live next to me, have three cars now that their oldest daughter Shira drives to school every day. Their driveway fits two, though they only use it for one. They park the other two on the street, and one always seems to be parked too close to the Levin’s driveway, making it difficult for them to get in or out.
I am not a part of this fight that seems to simmer through every-day interactions, Baruch HaShem, because I live on the corner and my driveway is in back of my house. But somehow I seem to end up involved in it anyway because we’ve all been living here a long time and are pretty candid with each other. They both like to complain to me, particularly at times when it’s difficult for me to leave.
“How dare they!” Mr. Levin will start, though he will be quickly shushed and calmed by his wife, who has been sitting with me in the backyard while I watch my grandkids in the kiddie pool. “Although”, she will continue, “it really shows a lack of derech eretz to inconvenience your neighbor in this way. I could barely get the car in yesterday. You shouldn’t have to try three times and then get out of your car to look and see if you can make it into your own driveway.” “One day you’ll hit that car,” Mr. Levin will add. “And we will not pay. It’s their fault.”
The Siegelmans, of course, think otherwise. In the kitchen at a shared Shabbos meal, Mrs. Siegelman mentions that she believes the Levins are using a tape measure. “Neighbors shouldn’t be so makpid,” she says. “We shouldn’t be so strict on each other. It’s not like we’re hurting them on purpose. One of us parks at the end of a long day, and WE don’t carry a tape measure. It’s not like you can’t get in-it’s just harder. And if it was illegal, someone would have stopped us by now.” At that point, I manage to change the subject, having learned that trying to defend the other side only causes more negative comments.
I have opinions, of course, though I wish I didn’t. I try not to listen to what they are saying, to let it float over me and through me. I know that even if I was allowed to hear any of this, it would only be for the purpose of actions, and I would not be allowed to change my opinion about either person. Sometimes I feel like each side is presenting its case to me, begging me to pick a side, preferably theirs. And based on what I’ve been told and what I’ve seen, I do think that one of them is wrong. And who that is may change based on who just talked to me. Each time I think about it, some other factor comes into focus that makes me see the whole thing differently.
So I don’t say anything. I have been asked to stick my nose in. “Please, can you tell them it would bother you too?”, or “Please tell them to stop putting notes on Shira’s car-she’s just a kid.” But I don’t want to interfere or to take a side. I learned the hard way that you don’t get involved in family fights, and in many ways neighbors are like family.
There are many reasons to stay out of it, but one big one is that I don’t really know enough to decide either way. I am not a judge who can ask each side to tell me specific things and then look carefully into what the law and halacha say. All I have are my instincts, and they aren’t enough. And because I do have one side that I favor in my head, I am not the right person to try to orchestrate a compromise. Not that that’s what they’re asking me to do.
So please don’t tell me about your side of an argument. Not only am I not allowed to hear it, but you might contribute to me making a snap judgment that isn’t right or fair. Since I can’t be a proper judge, I won’t be one at all.
“…Haym amru sh’losha d’varim, he’vay m’sunim ba’din…”
“They (Anshay K’nesses Ha’g’dola) said three things. Be deliberate in judgement…”
(Perek Aleph, Mishne Aleph).
This statement is directed toward judges. When deciding whether a defendant is innocent or guilty, they must deliberately and carefully consider all factors and testimony, taking all the time needed, regardless of whether such cases are routine for them. Judges should also seek compromise if possible. A judge who renders a ruling too quickly is considered to be a fool, because he over-estimates his own knowledge, and wicked, because by doing so he corrupts justice.
The directive may also point to rabbanim who issue halachik rulings, mandating that they investigate sufficiently and not rely on intuition. Additionally, the rabbanim are warning scholars not to rush to become judges, but to consider very carefully if it is right for them and the right time.
We may also apply this statement to the average Jew. We must carefully consider every action and decision through the Torah’s lens. Particularly when we are judging others or a situation, or dealing with any kind of dispute, we must think carefully and give sufficient time to our consideration before taking action or forming a die-hard opinion.
Each additional moment that a person thinks things through yields new understanding and insights and leads to further clarity and wisdom. Hasty, flawed conclusions are more easily avoided.
Discussion Question Options:
When in every-day life might we be called upon to judge a situation?
If we must judge a situation, what steps can we take to remain impartial and judge fairly? Why do we often jump to conclusions?
How can we avoid hastily judging situations and people as we encounter them?
Stretch of the Week:
Refrain from judging a situation that may seem clear to you.