Judging Others Favorably

Day 21:
How can i treat others
with respect and dignity?

וְאַל תַּבִּיט בִּפְנֵי אָדָם בְּדַבֶּרְךָ עִמוֹ. וְכָל אָדָם יִהְיֶה גָדוֹל מִמְךָ בְּעֵינֶיךָ: אִם חָכָם אוֹ עָשִׁיר הוּא – עָלֶיךָ לְכַבְּדוֹ. וְאִם רָשׁ הוּא, וְאַתָּה עָשִׁיר אוֹ חָכָם מִמֶנוּ – חֲשֹׁב בְּלִבְּךָ כִּי אַתָּה חַיָּב מִמֶנוּ, וְהוּא זַכַּאי מִמְךָ, שֶׁאִם הוּא חוֹטֵא – הוּא שׁוֹגֵג, וְאַתָּה מֵזִיד

Do not stare down the face of the person to whom you are speaking. Consider everyone as greater than yourself. If he is wise or wealthy, you should give him respect. If he is poor and you are wealthier or wiser than he, consider yourself to be more guilty than he, and that he is more worthy than you, since when he sins it is inadvertent, while you act knowingly!

There once were two men who lived in the same town. One considered himself a Torah scholar and would get up every morning at 4 a.m. to study. On his way to the Beit Midrash he would pass a poor and ignorant shoemaker who was peddling his wares. The arrogant scholar would feel unwarranted pride in his erudition and would haughtily look down on the other man with contempt. While the simple merchant would look upon the scholar with respect and reverence for his vast Torah knowledge.

When the time came for both to leave this world and face their final judgment, the contempt and arrogance the scholar showed the shoemaker outweighed his good deeds and hours of Torah learning, tipping the scales of Divine Justice against him. While the shoemaker merited entrance into the Garden of Eden, since all of his shortcomings and mistakes were eclipsed by the one act of humility he showed every day for the scholar

Do not stare down- A person should not look down upon others or intimidate them in any way.

If he is wise or wealthy, you should give him respect- Both wisdom and wealth deserve respect. 

Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi and Rabbi Akiva would show honor to the wealthy, in accordance with Rava bar Mari’s interpretation of the verse: 

“May he be enthroned before God forever; appoint mercy and truth, that they may preserve him.” (Psalms 61:8) 

According to Rava bar Mari, this means that If one provides food to others, he deserves to be enthroned before God, to be shown honor and respect. Consequently, it is proper to honor the wealthy who bestow such kindnesses. (Eruvin 86a:2)

“You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the scholar; you shall fear your God: I am Hashem.” (Vayikra 19:32)

The Talmud relates: The wife of Rav Huna had a trial pending before Rav Nacḥman. Rav Nacḥman said: What should we do? If I will arise before her in deference to her status as the wife of a Torah scholar, the claims of the other litigant will be suppressed, as it will be mistaken as a display of preference for the wife of Rav Huna, since not everyone is aware that one is required to show deference to the wife of a Torah scholar… Rav Nacḥman said to his attendant: 

“Go outside and cause a duck to fly and cast it onto me, and in that way I will be forced to arise in a manner that will fulfill the obligation to rise, without intimidating the other litigant.” (Shevout 30b:4)

That he is more worthy than you- Judge your fellow man with an inclination in his favor. (Rashi on Vayikra 19:15:4)

“You shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; in righteousness you should judge your companion.” (Vayikra 19:15)

(Adapted from A Letter for the Ages, pages 84-89)

Click on image to see the letter in Hebrew and in English

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Bonus Material

Truth Or Consequence: Judging People On Social Media by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg

In his book Other People’s Money and How Bankers Use It, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously wrote: "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Shining a spotlight on an issue can expose and reveal corruption, dishonesty, fraud or abuse that otherwise...

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Daily Goals

Daily Goals:
Judaism – a central project of which is the construction of a gracious society built on justice, compassion, mutual responsibility and trust –  tells us to not harbor suspicions about others, but to judge people generously, giving them the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, it also bids each of us to act in a way that is above suspicion, keeping “far from unseemly conduct, from whatever resembles it, and from what may merely appear to resemble it.” Therefore, we must do our best to be charitable in our judgment of others, scrupulous in the way we conduct ourselves, and lift everyone around us up with generosity and grace.

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