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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

What to do before criticizing others

Daf Yomi Sotah 28

It was shortly before Pesach when Fraidy and Shloimy were married in Boro Park.  A lovely young Chasidic couple, they were each so enamoured by their basherte, wondering how they were so blessed to have found such an incredible life-partner.

The sheva brachos were over and the young couple quickly transformed their home for the festival.  The seders, of course, were celebrated at each of their parents’ tables, but they finally had a chance to sit down and eat together, just the two of them, on the second day of Yom Tov.  Fraidy had prepared a delicious chicken soup and lovingly placed a steaming hot bowl before her husband.

The soup was indeed delicious.  Shloimy couldn’t stop thinking how lucky he was to have met Fraidy.  With each spoonful of soup, his love for her grew stronger and stronger.  Suddenly, he lifts the spoon to his mouth, lo and behold, he sees a piece of wheat!

He can’t control himself.  He jumps up from the table in a fit of rage.  He thought he had married a frum girl, dedicated in the most scrupulous manner to Torah and mitzvos.  How could she serve him wheat on Pesach?!  Outraged, the next day, Chol Hamoed, he takes her to the rabbi for a divorce.  The rabbi listens intently to his rant and calmly suggests that they give it a few days and come back to him on the last day of Yom Tov.  Shloimy insists that there’s really nothing to think about, but reluctantly agrees.

A few days later they are back.  On Chol Hamoed, Shloimy had been wearing his regular Chasidic garb; now it is Yom Tov again and his head is covered by his beautiful new fur shtreimel.  The rabbi welcomes them in and asks Shloimy whether he has changed his mind. 
‘Absolutely not!’ declares the young groom. ‘This marriage was arranged under false pretenses.  I demand a divorce!’
‘Do you mind showing me your shtreimel?’ asks the rabbi.  Shloimy is a little taken aback and slowly lifts off his fur hat and hands it to the rabbi.  The rabbi gives it a shake and out fall a number of wheat kernels!  You see, in Chasidic circles, as the bride and groom walk to the chuppah, they are showered with ‘blessing’ from their family and friends!

Shloimy, of course, did not know where to put himself.  He had accused his wife of the most awful behaviour while meanwhile he was the culprit all along.  Shokeling back and forth at the table, the kernel must have come loose and fallen into his soup! 

The moral of the story?  Before criticizing anyone else, you should check your own shtreimel first!

Concerning the test of the bitter waters administered to the allegedly disloyal wife, the Torah declares, “And the husband shall be innocent of sin and that woman shall bear her iniquity.”
Beraisa: When the husband is indeed completely free of sin, the waters are effective in testing the wife.  If the husband is not guilt-free, the waters are ineffective in testing his wife.

Here we have a husband that has taken his wife to the beth din, accusing her of the most terrible of behaviours, but really he is no more innocent himself!  The bitter waters are ineffective.  He has no right to be taking his wife to task when he himself is equally wanting. 

Too many people point fingers at others without ‘checking their own shtreimel first.’  They judge, they criticize, they accuse.  We’re not only talking about the spousal relationship; it happens in every sort of relationship.  Before you go accusing others of acting a certain way, you need to ask yourself whether you are completely innocent.  Otherwise, not only is your criticism unfair, but chances are it’s polluted with your own ‘wheat kernels.’  In an effort to deflect attention from your own deficiencies, you end up projecting them onto the other person.

Maybe it’s a colleague that you feel is undermining your work to the boss.  Before pointing fingers, ask yourself if you are doing your very best to always present them in a positive light.  Maybe it’s a sibling that you feel isn’t acting with the best intentions.  Ask yourself if you are being there for them and their family as a brother or sister should.

When you perceive a flaw in someone else, don’t rush to point fingers.  Instead, take a good look inside your own ‘shtreimel.’  May you merit to always see the good in everyone and only ever build them up with positive energy!  

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