The Baal Shem Tov taught that one should look at the world as a mirror. If you see positivity, that’s wonderful. If you see negativity, you must look inside yourself, and figure out the meaning of the ‘reflection.’
The Besht himself once saw someone desecrating Shabbos, but much as he racked his brain, he could not think of a time he had ever broken Shabbos. Why was he seeing this spectacle? Finally it occurred to him. The Talmud says that the honour of a Torah scholar is like the honour of Shabbos. Some time earlier he had witnessed a Torah scholar being ridiculed and he had stood there silent. Since he had not defended the honour of the Torah, for his lofty spiritual level, it was as if he had personally broken Shabbos. That was the mirror message he was receiving from Heaven.
The Gemara asks: Let us see. Why does Tractate Nazir appear in the Mishnah’s Order of Nashim (Women)?
The Gemara answers: The teaching order is based upon the verse order, as the Torah declares, “It shall come to pass if she does not find favour in his eyes, for he has discovered a matter of lewd activity, he shall write her a bill of divorce.” The meaning is: what caused her sin? Wine. The Talmud is thus teaching the following: Whoever sees an unkempt sotah (suspected adulteress) should take the nazirite vow to abstain from wine.
Why should you become a nazir just because you happened to pass by an immoral person? The answer, explains the Besht, is that if the Almighty has allowed your life to cross paths with them, He is sending you a sign to improve your personal ways. It is abundantly kind of Him to send you the sign by way of another individual – sometimes He sends us wake-up calls to repentance in our own lives – this time, however, He has shown you something external to stimulate your spiritual improvement.
Many people are quick to look around and criticize others for what they perceive as faults. But the message of the Talmud is that when you see improper behaviour, G-d is sending you a message. What they are doing is between them and G-d – it’s none of your business, it’s not your issue to deal with. But if you have witnessed it, it means you need to introspect and mend your ways.
It’s time to stop criticizing others. It’s time you put your blinders on and stopped looking over your neighbour’s fence. It’s not worth it! If you take the Besht’s teaching to heart and undertake an introspection every time you notice bad in others, you’ll see that before long, you will be finding the good in everybody! You will look at others and justify their actions, judging them with the same positive light you treat yourself!
In fact, next time you see someone in distress, like the sotah in our Gemara, you won’t stop and stare. You’ll ask them how you can help. You’ll reach out and offer them a hand to get their life back on track, instead of judging them.
Stop judging, start helping! May you view everyone with favour and may the Almighty in turn always view you with favour!