We are here to improve our relationships with others
in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.
Last week’s Stretch of the Week was: Every night before you go to sleep this week, review five positive acts you performed that day.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Judge All People Favorably
Dan L'Chaf Z'chus
Our Sages teach us to be dan l'chaf z'chus, to “judge all people favorably” (Ethics of Our Forefathers 1:6). As human beings, we tend to pass judgment all the time. Whenever we see someone performing a questionable act our internal sense of judgment causes us to rule "guilty" or "not guilty." Depending upon the case and the nature of the person we are observing, the Torah teaches us how we are expected to exercise that judgment.
In general, any time we see a person doing something that could be construed as either a positive or a negative act, we are obligated to give him the benefit of the doubt and judge him favorably, as opposed to suspecting him of committing a wrongdoing.
If we judge someone negatively in a case where halacha (Jewish law) would require us to judge him favorably, even if he turns out to be guilty, it would appear that we are still guilty of violating this commandment. Conversely, if we judge someone favorably as required, even when the truth emerges and we learn that the person was guilty, we can rest assured that we fulfilled the mitzva (commandment) properly, regardless of the reality of the situation. (Mishp'tai HaShalom 1:16)
Note that this commandment addresses our thought process. Even if we have not said or done anything based on our negative evaluation of the person, once we have judged him negatively we have violated this mitzva of the Torah and will be held accountable.
(from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
"Get over here right now and don't do that again!" this seemingly unloving and insensitive young mother shouted to her adorable, blue-eyed two-year-old daughter. "I've told you a million times “Don't play in the sandbox! It's dirty and germy and you get sand all over the stroller, the car, and the house! I've had enough! Now be a good girl and play like all the other children!"
Wow! This poor woman needed some serious parenting classes. From my viewpoint, she was absolutely unfit to raise this sweet child. I wondered, wasn’t it embarrassing for her to be losing control of herself, especially in public?
My anger towards her grew with each sentence she shrieked. How could she call herself a mother? How could she not realize the damage she was causing with each reprimand? Not only was her behavior unacceptable, I worried about the lasting negative impact on her innocent child.
Instantly, I was struck with an insight that hit me like a ton of bricks. I had recently attended a class where we learned the importance of removing our harsh judgment of others in attempt to truly improve our relationships. I realized that I had a living example right in front of me. In the class, we learned that HaShem (G-d) judges us based on how we judge others. At the rate I was judging, I would have a lot of explaining to do. Fortunately, I realized that I had a tremendous opportunity. Instead of assessing the situation from my narrow perspective, I decided to judge this woman favorably.
Despite the fact that I normally don’t see myself as a strong person, somehow I was able to gather the strength to work on giving this mother the benefit of the doubt. I considered the possibility that perhaps she was just having a hard day and is normally very loving, understanding, and gentle. Maybe she's not feeling well. Maybe she is under tremendous pressure or maybe she is simply doing the best she can. Once I began to think about all the possibilities, there seemed to be so many ways I could positively relate to the situation.
Before I knew it, I was walking towards this woman whose very presence bothered me tremendously just minutes earlier. My critical nature melted into friendly understanding. I struck up a conversation with her and found her to be quite pleasant. She confided that this was her first child and she was having difficulty finding the best way to communicate with her. She admitted that she desperately needed help. It was divine providence that I knew about a parenting workshop forming in the neighborhood. I gave her the information and we exchanged numbers.
Just a half an hour earlier I was trapped in the negative web of my yetzer hora (evil inclination). However, with the proper kavana (intention), I learned that I could choose a positive and productive path by first assessing my thoughts and responses. What initially seemed to me to be so obvious was actually incorrect and misguided. I am grateful that HaShem gave me the strength to view this situation with a clear mind and an open heart. In the end, instead of dismissing a fellow Jew, I made a new friend.
Is it necessary to know why someone acts in ways we don’t understand in order for us to judge them favorably?
Why do people often assume the worst when observing poor behavior in someone else?
Speaking from a general standpoint, what experiences have taught you to judge people favorably?
Stretch of the Week:
At least once this week try to be less judgmental of someone else’sannoying behavior.