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Thursday, 12 February 2015

Stop being so hard on yourself and even harder on everyone else!


Daf Yomi Kesubos 6

Judah had found a wife for his son Er, but no sooner had they married than the Almighty took Er.  Tamar was then joined in levirate marriage with Er’s brother, Onan, but he too acted inappropriately and was taken by G-d.  Scared that the same thing would happen to his youngest son, Shaila, Judah sent Tamar back to her father’s home to wait until his son would grow up.

After many frustrating years of waiting, however, Tamar began to abandon hope of ever being wedded to Shaila.  Desiring to remain part of Judah’s holy family, she disguised herself as a harlot and waited for Judah himself.  Three months later, Judah discovers that Tamar is pregnant.  Unbeknownst to him, he is the father.

“Take her out to be burned,” he declares, furious that she gave herself up instead of waiting for his son.  She produces his ring, seal and staff and inquires as to whether he recognizes the items. 

Filled with remorse, he admits, “She is more righteous than me,” and calls off the public execution.

What changed?  If she had acted immorally and deserved capital punishment for her infidelity, what difference should Judah’s admission have made?

The Mishnah states: A virgin should get married on a Wednesday.

The Gemara asks: Is it permissible to have the first marital relations on Shabbos?  When the hymen is broken, does it merely release stored blood or has one made a wound, which is forbidden on Shabbos?

In the academy of Rav, they would say: Rav permits, but Shmuel forbids.  In Nehardea (where Shmuel was the rabbi), they would say: Rav forbids, but Shmuel permits.

Rabbi Nachman bar Yitzchak taught: Here’s the key – These students were lenient upon themselves and those students were lenient upon themselves (for each adopted the view that their rabbi permitted the act).

We all tend to be lenient when it comes to thinking about ourselves and our actions.  Just like Judah, who suddenly viewed Tamar’s behaviour in a completely different light once he realized he was personally involved, we all judge ourselves with greater favour than we judge others. 

Next time you rush to judge another unfavourably, ask yourself: If it were you, could you find a justification?  When you are the one acting out of line, it’s easy to find excuses and rationales.  But when it’s someone else, we suddenly forget all the rationalizations.  The best way to judge others favourably is to put yourself in their shoes.  And if you couldn’t imagine yourself in their shoes, then you most certainly shouldn’t be judging them!

Everyone is lenient on themselves.  It’s time to start finding leniencies and excuses for others.  May you merit the ability to always think of ways to excuse others’ inappropriate behaviour and always judge them favourably!