We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.
Last week's tool was Midda K'Neged Midda, which gave us very strong motivation for forgiving and letting go of hurts. The stretch was: If/when a situation arises when a person wrongs you in some way, shift the focus away from what the person did to you. Instead, stop, and think to yourself: HaShem has brought me this opportunity as a test. If I pass this test, HaShem will grant me forgiveness.
Please have one person share a successful experience using this or any other tool we have learned (so far).
Tools #2 - DAN L'CHAF Z'CHUS
PRACTICAL TOOLS FOR BRINGING
SHALOM INTO OUR WORLD
Tool #2: Dan L’Chaf Z’chus
An excellent tool to rid ourselves of anger and bad feelings is working on the mitzva of dan l’chaf z'chus (judging favorably). This mitzva from the Torah helps us see the other person in a better light. Finding a z’chus may clear the person completely of what we think they’ve done, or it might help us understand them better—even if not quite clearing them completely of wrong doing. This, too, is one of the mitzvos of the heart; we fulfill this mitzva through our thoughts rather than through our deeds. Also, Pirkai Avos teaches us that judging others favorably is a midda tova, a good character trait to develop. By working on dan l'chaf z'chus, we will manage to better fulfill several other mitzvos, such as to love your neighbor, to not take revenge or hold a grudge, and to not hate your brother in your heart. If the negative feelings are erased as a result of judging favorably, then one can more easily fulfill other mitzvos between man and his fellow man, such as visiting the sick, returning lost objects, giving a loan, etc.
Here are some examples of different z'chusim to consider when feeling annoyed or upset with someone:
1. Perhaps there is some sort of misunderstanding. Sometimes we don’t hear accurately or completely. Misunderstandings also arise from different styles of communication as well as cultural and language differences.
2. Perhaps the person made a mistake or forgot. We are all human. Am I not also capable of making a mistake or forgetting?
3. Perhaps he used bad judgment. Have I ever used bad judgment and regretted it? Does that make me a bad person?
4. Maybe his mind was preoccupied, so he didn’t notice me or my need. I have to allow him the same z'chusim I would allow for myself.
5. I may be missing a piece of the puzzle. There may be some information that I’m lacking that would make me understand the situation totally differently.
6. We are all products of our life’s experiences. Maybe something in this person’s upbringing or past that cause him to behave in the way that he does.
The goal of dan l’chaf zchus is to restore our respect for another person. If we look at the word "respect," we will have a hint as to how to go about it. The prefix 're' means again. 'Spect' pertains to seeing, as in the word 'spectator'. To respect someone we must look again and consider other possible interpretations for their behavior. The mitzva to judge favorably does not necessarily include everyone, as it depends on the person's previous history or record with us. On the other hand, the midda tova includes everyone except a rasha, an evil person.
It is important to keep in mind what we learned in last week's lesson too. Remember that HaShem conducts His world midda k’neged midda (measure for measure). If I make it a habit to work on giving others the benefit of the doubt, then I will merit the same consideration from HaShem. He can judge us with the strictest of judgment or with mercy. Judging us with mercy would mean, yes, we did indeed sin, but He will take into account any extenuating circumstances. How we judge others will determine how we will be judged by HaShem.
Judging favorably is not only a mitzva in the Torah, it is also a path to fulfilling many other mitzvos between man and his fellow man. The Chofetz Chaim tells us that this mitzva is the antidote to Lashon Hora! The more I work on judging favorably, the less I will come to speak negatively about others. Additionally, this is an excellent tool to start with when I am working to restore good feelings in a relationship in which I have been hurt, embarrassed or angered. If I can find a z'chus for the person, that may be all I need to let go of any bad feelings. Through judging others favorably, I am guaranteeing for myself a more favorable judgment from HaShem.
Story: (based on a true story)
Dina had a very close friend to whom she had confided many times concerning a personal issue. Leah had experienced, and successfully dealt with, similar problems, so Dina felt comfortable sharing with Leah and no one else. She valued the chizuk and practical advice she received from her.
When a particularly difficult issue arose, once again Dina turned to Leah. She was very distressed when Leah did not offer any sort of encouragement or guidance about how to proceed. Instead, after listening to Dina talk about her issue extensively, Leah went on to discuss other topics, seemingly ignoring Dina’s angst. Each time Dina spoke with Leah, she stressed that she really needed help, but Leah seemed indifferent and did not offer any help as in the past.
Dina could not understand what had happened, and why her friend was not willing to offer the help she desperately needed, specifically from her. She felt hurt and abandoned in her time of need, so she started avoiding Leah.
Talking the situation over with her sister Esty without giving names or details, Dina asked for help in trying to drop her grudge against her friend. Esty encouraged Dina to judge her friend favorably by offering a possible reason for her behavior. Maybe she herself was going through a difficult time and she just couldn’t handle Dina’s problem as well right now.
When Esty saw that this didn’t help Dina let go of the hurt, Esty directed her to bring HaShem into the picture. Leah must not be the one that HaShem had designated to help her; HaShem must feel that not having Leah’s help at this time would strengthen Dina, forcing her to find the answers herself, with HaShem’s help.
Dina absorbed and worked on what her sister said. When Leah called asking why Dina was avoiding her, she was ready to respond. “You should know you did nothing wrong. This is something I need to go through and to work out, for my own good," she told Leah.
Upon further questioning, she explained that she was working through the feeling of being abandoned when she really needed Leah’s help. Leah immediately apologized, saying, “When you kept telling me you needed help, I didn’t realize you wanted my help! I thought you meant you were going to seek out a professional. I didn’t see myself as being able to offer advice on such a weighty issue."
Instantly, Dina realized she had made a false assumption. She learned that she needed to be more explicit with her requests and expectations in the future. In the end, Dina found the z’chus to be able to let go.
Discussion Question Options:
How would things have changed for Dina if she judged Leah favorably from the beginning?
Of course it is easier to see another’s mistake than to catch our own. Think of a time when you brought yourself unnecessary suffering by misinterpreting another person’s behavior towards you.
Discuss the exceptions for a rasha, an evil person.
Discuss the exception of a person that has a previous record with you that is not to be ignored.
Stretch of the Week:
Judging favorably is a mitzva of the Torah. Look for an opportunity to judge someone favorably.