Judging people favorably is so hard, isn’t it? But we all know how important it is. But still, it’s hard! Especially when someone is lacking in something that is easy for you. It’s not always enough to remind yourself ‘Baruch Hashem, it comes naturally to me. Maybe she needs to work on it a little more?’ In theory it’s easy, but what do Chazal say the biggest distance in the world is?
From the mind to the heart. How can we make our positive thoughts penetrate?
- Get to know someone.
It is so much easier to judge someone favorably when you know them. Don’t you often find yourself mentally defending your friends? That’s because you see the positive as well as the negative.
“Ok, so her clothes are a little clingy. But she davened all of Shacharit, even though she only got an hour and a half of sleep. My skirts might be long and loose, but I was just way too tired to make the effort.”
“So what if she listens to non-Jewish music? She doesn’t understand the Hebrew well enough, and she’s really careful to make brachot out loud!”
This doesn’t mean that you should try to befriend someone whose middot you find lacking, (especially if you think that you might be influenced negatively). But it does mean to pay attention to their positive traits, and try to see them as a whole person, flaws as well as advantages. No-one is a static character. We all have depth beyond what is seen. Would you want someone to form their opinion of you based on watching you daven first thing in the morning?!
- Remember the higher goal.
At our essence, we are neshamot trying to fulfil at task. A neshama who needs to be tested with not eating a cheeseburger wouldn’t be placed in a home where they peal fruits for Pesach. To contrast, a neshama who needs to overcome hemming her skirt an extra inch wouldn’t be put in a home where she’d spend her whole life wearing pants.Have you ever wondered, “We have Chabad, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Bucharian, Chassidic, Satmar etc. What’s the right way to do things?” It’s not a bad question. We all claim to have found the right way to do things- the right way to hang a mezuzah, the right way to lay teffilin, the right foods to eat on Shabbat, the right Rabbi’s esrog… Who’s right?Answer: We all are. If we all did things the same, it would cause a lot less machlokes. But we would lose so many opportunities for growth. Some neshamot need the fire of Chassidus, or the open homes of Chabad. Some need closed communities, while others need exposure. Some people need cholent, others chulent, while others chamin.Hashem has given us a puzzle, and we need to find our place. But when we get there, we need to hold on tight to the puzzle pieces around us. What good is it if we are there if others are not. The picture is still incomplete.
I always wondered why rainbows were chosen as a sign of Hashem’s anger. After all, isn’t it beautiful that each colour has its place?
White light is composed of all the colours of the rainbow. Each one combines and overlaps, rather than just sitting next to each other. So too, us. We might be Sephardi, Lubavich, or any other number of shades and hues. But only when we combine do we form a beautiful whole.
This Chanukah, may our efforts in Achdus give us the merit to light candles in the Bayit Shlishi, Amen!