I’m sorry this took so long. Again with the excuses, but two weeks ago was the first day of school, and last Tuesday I had my bottom braces put on. It’s good that I delayed, though, because I learned something that adds meaning to this week’s idea.
Part of this post is one I’ve been meaning to type out and post for a while, but partial credit also goes to Esther Sender and her Mishpacha column, which had a similar point and helped clarify my ideas. I also got the title from her suggestions.
(It’s late, so I’ll skip whatever introduction I had when I was more awake, and jump straight in.)
Sometimes, you see something, and you immediately form an opinion. Sometimes, a negative one. It’s too late to take it back. There’s no way to stop thinking entirely. So how do we stop judging?
That’s a really hard question. But you can learn to judge fairly. It takes time and practice, but unlike the original thought, is something you have complete control over. I call this Reframing the Picture.
Remember that phrase, ok? Let’s start with a few examples.
First scenario: There’s a girl sitting in class while the others are davening (praying). Just sitting there, holding a closed siddur. Not talking (Baruch Hashem! Let’s think about the good), just passively not davening.
First of all, aren’t you supposed to be concentrating only on your own davening? But since this is a real-life example, let’s just assume that I was between sections, waiting for everyone else, but not at a place where I could open my sefer Tehillim (psalms). And a thought like ‘Doesn’t she care? Doesn’t she know how important it is to Daven?’
Oooops! Too late to take it back. Too late to try and ignore it- it will lurk in your head for a while if you do. But here’s what you can do. Or rather, think. ‘Maybe she already davened?’ Yes, that’s good. She already davened at home, but she didn’t want to get marked as being absent, or sit in the back and disturb people by talking. So she’s just sitting, doing the best thing she could in the scenario. There, now look! Not only is it not bad, but you’ve turned it in her favor.
What if you can’t say a maybe? If the situation makes it impossible, or you just can’t summon up enough favor at the moment?
Second scenario: There are a few girls, sitting in right in front of you during davening. They’re talking- not just during the pauses but also during davening itself. Not that quietly, and not about anything urgent or prayer-related either. All in all, pretty hard to find merit. If you can think of a maybe statement, you are on a much higher level than me.
But what can you do? At least. It’s not perfect, but sometimes it’s all you can do. At least they’re in here, not cutting davening altogether. At least they’re being friendly. At least they davened a little already before. At least they’re being fairly quiet.
There are a few cases where ‘at least’ may be the better option of the two. Sometimes, it is the only option. Maybe is always better, because you’re trying as hard as you can to explain and forgive the behaviour, not say why it can be worse. This is especially true when all you can find is ‘At least she’s not wearing pants. At least they’re not cutting class. At least they aren’t not benching, even if it is kind of rushed.’
Try to reframe the picture. Imagine everything you see is taped up onto the walls of your brain. It would be ok to just leave it like that, with no decoration. But when it’s too late- when you’ve already hammered in the nail and hung up the ugly frame- stop. Think about how you would want to be judged. And reframe your mental picture in silver and gold.
We learned something in Bekius this week, that made me see something I always knew in a new way. When Moshe Rabbenu comes down from Har Sinai with the Luchot, to find that the Jewish people have done the worst thing imaginable- what does he do? He smashes the Luchot. Then he goes right back up that mountain and prays for his people. G-d wanted to destroy us, get rid of the people who couldn’t follow His commands for forty days. But Moshe prayed for us. Even though he’d brought them through the desert, and knew exactly how bad we could be. Even thought they killed his Nephew and almost killed his brother. But he still pleaded for us. He saw our potential. If he could see how g00d we were, even in such a situation- Can’t we be a little nicer to each other?
Ps. Lately I’ve noticed that my posts have veered from musings towards advice and practical suggestions. (Practical as in stuff you do, not stuff that I think is actually useful and practical.) What do you think? Is it a good change? Do you miss the old posts? Any ideas?