A young boy comes home from school one day and announces to his father: “Chaim pushed me so hard today.”
The father replies, “What did you do to him?”
“Nothing,” responds the boy.
“Do you mean that Chaim pushed you for no good reason? Did your teacher see him do it?”
Chaim answers, “Definitely! He did it right in front of the teacher!”
Intrigued, the father asks, “And he didn’t say anything to Chaim?”
“No. And all the other children watched, too.”
A now furious father looks up the teacher’s number and tries to hide the anger in his voice as he calls to complain about this terrible injustice. As the phone is ringing, the boy continues the story, “You should have seen how Chaim pushed me in the red wagon; I rolled all the way across the room!”
This story, told by Rabbi Hanoch Teller in Courtrooms of the Mind, captures the ease with which we jump to conclusions. At the same time, it also illustrates an effective strategy to overcome this urge to unfairly judge others.
The Mitzvah of judging favorably comes from Parshat Kedoshim. The Pasuk states (Vayikra 19:15), “With fairness shall you judge your people.” The Sefer HaChinuch (235) includes the imperative to judge favorably in this mitzvah.
How could the Torah require us to rise above our natural tendency to rush to judgment? When we judge a situation, we believe we know all of the details and can therefore come to an appropriate judgment. As Rabbi Teller illustrates through his story, however, we might be missing some of the details. Without these critical details, our conclusions are incomplete. If we inculcate in ourselves a sense of humility in realizing that we don’t necessarily know exactly what transpires in each situation, we then lose the temptation to rush to judge others.
Fittingly, this week’s second Parsha presents a prohibition of Lashon Hara (Vayikra 19:16). About two months ago, Rabbi Teller addressed the student body at TABC to introduce our Lashon Hara Awareness Program, which was dedicated in memory of Rabbi Shelley Miller. Rabbi Teller pointed out that the best way to avoid Lashon Hara is by judging others favorably. If we would simply allow ourselves to believe that there could be “more to the story,” we would avoid the prohibition of speaking Lashon Hara about our friends.
One Mitzvah brings another. By judging others favorably, may we also merit greater success in the area of Shemirat HaLashon!
by Joseph Jarashow
Parshat Kedoshim, the latter Parsha of this week’s double Parsha, contains many Mitzvot. These Mitzvot are all connected to the common theme of “Kedoshim Tehiyu,” the requirement that Am Yisrael be unique and separate from the nations of the world. Second among these Mitzvot (after the command of Kedoshim Tehiyu) is the obligation to fear one’s parents, and subsequently comes the command to observe Shabbat. Many commentators (see, for example, Rashi 19:3 s.v. VeEt) explain this juxtaposition in light of a Midrash in Torat Kohanim. The Midrash explains that although one must respect and fear one’s parents, this respect has limitations and boundaries. If one’s parents command him to violate Shabbat (or any other Mitzvah), he must not listen to them.
There is a basic yet intriguing question which can be asked on this explanation. Why would the Torah mention this universal rule specifically with regard to Shabbat? The Torah could have simply stated that if one’s parents command him to violate a Mitzvah of the Torah, it is forbidden to fulfill your parent’s words!
Rav Baruch Schneerson resolves the question based on the well known principle of “Melacha SheAinah Tzricha LeGufah”. On a Deoraita level, one is permitted to engage in Melacha on Shabbat if the objective is not to acquire benefit from the action itself. For example, if a person digs a hole on Shabbat for the purpose of using the dirt uncovered, the action is permitted on a Deoraita level. The person is not digging the hole because he wants a hole in the ground, but rather for the external reason of acquiring the dirt. Rav Schneerson explains that one might have thought that desecrating the Shabbat at the behest of one’s parents falls under the category of “Melacha SheAinah Tzricha LeGufah”, because the only reason the person violated Shabbat was to fulfill his parents wishes, not because he actually wanted the Melacha done. However, the Torah comes to inform us that this is not so. Transgressing the Shabbat at the request of your parents is in fact forbidden.
The Alshich takes a different approach. The Gemara (Kiddushin 30b) states that since Hashem is a partner with the parents in the creation of a child, when one honors his parents he also honors Hashem. Therefore, one might consider the possibility that since the parents represent two thirds of the partnership, they have the ability to override the word of Hashem, who is only one third. In order to reject this rationale, the Torah mentions this broad principle specifically by Shabbat. Shabbat marks the end of creation and reminds us that Hashem created the world and all of its occupants, including parents. Hence, although parents are partners with Hashem, they do not have the authority to override Hashem’s Torah.
It is imperative to acknowledge that the Torah is not sanctioning acting disrespectfully towards one’s parents. The Torah’s commandment to disregard one’s parents when they contradict the Torah should not be misconstrued as eliminating the Chiyuv of Kibud Av VaEim. Therefore, although observing Shabbat takes precedence, the requirement to honor one’s parents dictates that, if asked to violate Shabbat, one respond in an appropriate and respectful manner.
by Yitzchak Richmond
Pasuk in Parashat Kedoshim (19:15) states “BeTzedeck Tishpot Amitecha,” “With righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.” Rashi comments, quoting Torat Kohanim, that this Pasuk teaches that one should judge everybody favorably.
The Baal Shem Tov quotes the story of David’s sin with Bat-Sheva in order to understand this Pasuk on a deeper level. In Shmuel Bet, when Natan HaNavi comes to rebuke David HaMelech for approaching Bat-Sheva, he first asks David to pass judgment in an interesting case. In this fabricated case, a rich man had many sheep, and a poor man had only one sheep which was more or less a member of the family. One day, a guest arrived at the rich man’s house; the rich man took the poor man’s one sheep, and slaughtered it for his guest. David responds that the rich man should be put to death. Natan then replies to David that the story is a Mashal (parable), and that David himself is the rich man in the story. Natan’s rebuke inspires David to perform Teshuva immediately, and he is eventually forgiven.
Our sages teach that the way in which Natan approached David in Sefer Shmuel is in fact the same way that man is judged by Hashem when he reaches Heaven. The “video screen” is put up and Hashem’s “movie” depicts the sin that man committed. However, there is a twist. The depiction of the sin that the man committed is not taken from the life of the man who presently stands trial, but rather from somebody else’s life. In other words, Hashem shows the one who stands trial for a sin another man committing the same sin that he did, asking the perpetrator to pass judgment on the other man, similar to Natan’s approach with David. Therefore, when the perpetrator passes judgment on the other man, he is, in essence, judging himself.
Later in Kedoshim (19:17), the Torah states “Hocheiach Tochiyach Et Amitecha,” “You shall surely rebuke your neighbor.” The question can be asked: how are we supposed to rebuke our neighbors? The Iturei Torah quotes a story to shed some light on this matter. Rav Aharon Lev from Parmishlan saw that a man had transgressed. He said to the man: “It says in Tehillim (51:1-2) ‘LaMinatzseiach Mizmor LeDavid. BeVo Eilav Natan HaNavi Kaasher Ba El Bat-Sheva,’ ‘When Natan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bat-Sheva.’ What do these words come to teach us? If Natan would have come like a harsh Judge to censure David publicly, David might have dismissed the rebuke, defended himself, and wouldn’t have listened to him. However, when Natan rebuked David privately and in a patient manner, as David acted with Bat-Sheva, David took the rebuke to heart and did Teshuva.” After realizing that Rav Aharon Lev’s subtle rebuke was directed at him, the man who had transgressed quickly did Teshuva.
There is a common theme running through both Pesukim regarding how we must act towards our fellow man. If a friend commits an Aveira, we should not be so quick to judge him. After all, we may have done exactly the same thing ourselves, in which case judging him would be just judging ourselves. If, instead of criticizing our fellow man, we would be Dan LeKaf Zechut, judge favorably, we would in fact be judging our own sins favorably in the process! Inevitably, however, there will come a time when we will be faced with the challenge of rebuking our friends. In that scenario, we must take the message of Natan and Rav Aharon Lev to heart on how we rebuke, treating our friends as we would like to be treated.
by Tzvi Zuckier
The beginning of Parshat Acharei Mot discusses the service that Aharon and future Kohanim Gedolim must perform on the holiday of Yom Kippur. But Yom Hakippurim is discussed in Parshat Emor. Why is this section placed here?
Harav Yehuda Shaviv, in his Sefer Misinai Ba, differentiates between the two sections, thus answering the question. He explains that in Emor, only the parts of Yom Kippur pertaining to the nation as a whole are discussed, while Acharei Mot goes into the details of the Kohen Gadol’s service. His Avodah is an extension of the laws pertaining to Tumah and Tahara, impurity and purity, which has been presented since Parshat Shemini. This is highlighted by the fact that last week’s Parsha ended off (15:31), “VeHizartem Et Bnei Yisrael MiTumatam, VeLo Yamutu BeTumatam, BeTamam Et Mishkani Asher BeTocham,” “You should separate Bnei Yisrael from their impurity, and they won’t die via their impurity if they contaminate My Mishkan that is among them.” Acharei Mot continues this theme in the new topic of Aharon’s Yom Kippur Avodah. Right after mentioning the deaths of Aharon’s sons, the Pasuk states that if Aharon stays away from the Kodesh HaKadashim, “VeLo Yamut,” “He will not die,” as an otherwise necessary punishment. The parallel phrasing of “VeLo Yamutu” and “VeLo Yamut” in these two segments highlights the fact that both sections are indeed connected in their themes of Tumah and Tahara
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