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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Don't judge half the picture

Daf Yomi Yevamos 31

Today, the midterm elections are taking place in the US.   This year, there have been an unprecedented number of ad campaigns emanating from both sides of the political fence attacking the candidates for office and their records on certain issues.  Are these people all really as bad as the campaigns make them out to be?

There was an individual with dissociative identity disorder that they called Bar Shatya.  He once sold his property.  One pair of witnesses arrived and testified that he had sold the property while in a sound mental state.  Another pair arrived and testified he was ill at the time, invalidating the sale.   Rabbi Ashi declared, “Let us pit these two against these two, so that they cancel one another out.  The land remains in the possession of Bar Shatya.”

The reason we judge people unfavourably is that we look at one mistake they’ve made and assume the worst in them.  Rabbi Ashi reminds us not to be swayed by one piece of bad news.  That should be overwhelmingly cancelled out by good news about the person.  When you look at a person, you need to look at the whole picture of who they are.   They ‘remain in possession of their land.’ 

When campaign ads come out attacking a candidate on a single issue, it’s obviously not fair.   Most people in public office work tirelessly for their constituents and it’s a pity that we don’t get to see all the positive aspects of their role. 

And if that’s true for public figures, then how much more so of individuals in your life!  How often do you judge someone based on one thing they’ve done that you didn’t agree with?  You then take that piece of them and magnify it so that you now view them with disfavour.  Nobody is perfect and if you’re going to single out one fault they have or one occasion they messed up, how do you expect others to judge you?

Our Sages tell us that the way you judge others is the way that Heaven will judge you.  In fact, when you pass on to the Next World, you will cross over the Heavenly Dinor River and forget everything that happened to you in this world.  You will then be shown a movie of your life, but you won’t know it’s you.  The Heavenly court will ask you to pass judgment on the leading actor.  If you’ve trained your soul throughout your lifetime on earth to judge others with favour, you will be able to look beyond the faults of the main character and judge them by the bigger picture.  But if you’ve gotten into the habit of picking at people’s individual flaws and mistakes and judging them unfavourably, you’re going to pass judgment on yourself that you will most certainly regret.

Judge others with favour.  Don’t get caught up in the little imperfections.   Look at the entire package.  Others in turn will judge you with favour.  And Heaven too will judge you favourably, both in this world and the next!

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