11 - Judge Your Fellow with Righteousness part 2

The obligation to judge favorably is incumbent on every Jew, man or woman, at all times, and in respect to every Jew.

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: This week focus on seeing others with a good eye by assuming that “they’re doing the best they can with what they’ve got.”

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.

 Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #11


PART 2 - Who is Obligated?


The obligation to judge favorably is incumbent on every Jew, man or woman, at all times, and in respect to every Jew – man, woman, child or adult (excluding resha’im, wicked people), who have forfeited the title of amisecha (part of the Jewish nation). Although there is no Torah commandment not to suspect a non-Jew, nevertheless, it is neither ethical nor healthy to be suspicious of anyone, and it can cause a breakdown of one’s fine character traits. Only when there would be a good reason to hate someone would it be permitted, but even then it must be in a controlled, intellectual manner, not an exaggerated blind, emotional hatred. Certainly, one must be careful never to make a chillul HaShem, especially when community relations are at stake and animosity could result.

One should strive constantly to maintain peaceful relations with everyone and to live in harmony with all. Extra care should be taken in one’s relationships with people of power, such as politicians or one’s boss, and with one’s neighbors or business partners, with whom one interacts frequently.

This means that when your mother-in-law sends over soup every week, over your protests, you should not interpret it to mean that she is criticizing your cooking; you should evaluate her action as a selfless act of chessed. And when the neighbor passes by for the third time without responding to your “hello“, you may not judge him to be a snob; you should assume he is preoccupied with something, and, perhaps, offer him your help.

Children should be trained in this mitzva from an early age. How do we train them to do a mitzva that is performed essentially in one’s mind? Simply think out loud. When you observe someone doing a questionable act in the presence of your child, say what is going on in your mind: “Hmmm….at first it looked like that boy just pushed ahead to get on the bus before the other boys, but then I noticed that his little brother got separated from him, and he had to get on quickly to look after his brother.” Another thing you can do is to describe imaginary situations and help children practice using favorable judgment. (Mishpetei Hashalom 1:13-15,17)

(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)

Story:  (based on a true story) 

“How could she betray me like that? We’ve been best friends forever. How could she not even hint about it?”

As a mother I felt it was my duty to provide empathy to my daughter who was experiencing a volcano of sadness, anger and disappointment. My daughter, Aviva was at sleep away camp, away from the everyday life back at home. She admitted she was feeling forgotten after hearing from a third party that her best friend Rivka was going to be moving out of the city. As Aviva blissfully sang in choir, enjoyed exciting trips and stayed up all night chatting, the realities back home still played themselves out whether she was there or not and whether she liked it or not. When their mutual friend called to hint that something was going on with Rivka’s family, Aviva reacted as if a cup of ice water was being thrown in her face.

“Maybe she hasn’t gotten around to calling yet honey?” I offered this as an attempt to ease her pain at the thought that her best friend wouldn’t call her with such important news. “Maybe her letter hasn’t arrived in the mail yet.” I tried again.

“Well then how did this other girl know about it?” She pouted. I tried to formulate any reason I could think of as to why her best friend wouldn’t have informed her about this development. Personally I was just as shocked as she was however I tried my best to give her friend the benefit of the doubt since she was an extremely great friend and a terrific girl. As I tried to think of anything to help Aviva see Rivka in a positive light, I felt certain that one of my intuitive thoughts had to be the truth.

“Well,” I said, “maybe her mother told her not to tell a soul. Maybe they don’t want anyone to know yet, not even her best friend and it could be that this other girl just found out?”

As I heard her voice calm down, I realized that it wasn’t the news that was so disturbing as was the fact that she didn’t confide in Aviva. I strongly encouraged Aviva to call Rivka and let her know she heard a rumor and wanted to know if there was any truth to it.

That night I received a call from Aviva stating that she called Rivka and found the news to be true. It turned out that Rivka was in so much pain over the fact that Aviva was far away in camp and she was unable to share the news with her in person. She admitted that she cried herself to sleep wishing she was home to talk to her about it. Truth be told, her mother didn’t allow her to share the news with anyone out of fear that the mortgage deal would fall through. Ironically this friend happened to be over and heard what was going on with Rivka’s family. Aviva felt quite relieved and mentioned that when I said Rivka’s mother probably told her not to say a word about the move, I had been right. Rivka still remained conflicted. Had Aviva been home Rivka’s mother probably would have allowed her to discuss it with her. However since she was so far away in camp, Rivka didn’t feel comfortable with it. Rivka felt at a loss the whole time yet still considered their friendship the best.

I personally experienced the moving power of verbally expressing the benefit of the doubt to someone experiencing difficulty with another. Sometimes it’s difficult to view life in a clear manner without the help of someone whose glasses aren’t smudged with emotional dust.

Discussion Question Options: 

Is it harder to give the benefit of the doubt to those closest to you because you feel you know them and their intentions so well?

Is giving others the benefit of the doubt harder for a certain type of person or just as hard for everyone? Explain.

When you judge people favorably, do they behave more favorably towards you? Why or why not?

Stretch of the Week: 

Help another person give the benefit of the doubt to someone else.


Stretch Of The Week