Daf Yomi Bava Kama 79
The great Chasidic master, Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev once saw a Jew greasing the wheels of his wagon while wearing tallis and tefillin and mumbling away his morning prayers. Instead of rebuking him for trying to rush through the prayers and multitask at G-d’s expense, the Barditchever turned his eyes Heavenward and declared, “Master of the universe, look at how holy Your nation is! They even grease the wheels of their wagons with tallis and tefillin on!”
The Torah states, “If a man steals an ox, or a sheep, and kills it, or sells it, he shall pay five oxen in place of the ox, and four sheep in place of the sheep.”
Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai taught: Come see how great is human dignity! For an ox that walked on its own feet, the thief must pay fivefold. But for the sheep, which he needed to carry upon his shoulders, he pays but fourfold.
Rashi explains: The thief carried the sheep upon his shoulders thereby embarrassing himself. Therefore, the Almighty is softer on his punishment.
Often in life we’re quick to judge others. After all, you’re a good person. You’re making the effort to serve G-d. It’s not easy to stay on track. And most other people don’t bother. They do whatever they feel like. Some people have total disregard for Torah!
And so your gut reaction is aversion. There’s a certain natural disdain you have for people who don’t share your values and make the same effort for G-d as you do.
But look at the way Hashem treats a petty thief! Yes, he stole. But in spite of his crime, the Almighty is still concerned for his welfare! This poor fellow had to actually pick up the sheep and carry it on his shoulders for a quick getaway. How embarrassing must that have been for him?!?
That’s the attitude we must have toward people who are not quite as spiritually-driven as we are. Instead of distancing them, we should be feeling for them. It can be embarrassing to be around those who are more connected to Torah. Don’t make them feel any more uncomfortable than they already might feel!
You know that guy who parks around the corner instead of driving right up to shul on Shabbos? He deserves a medal. How about the lady who reroutes her shopping cart down the alternate aisle in the supermarket so that you don’t see her non-kosher food purchases? She is a hero.
Well maybe not quite medal-deserving heroes! But instead of looking at them as hypocrites and thinking, ‘Who are they kidding?’ it’s time to switch your approach to a Divine attitude. Hashem looks at these people and says, ‘Wow, they’re actually suffering embarrassment on account of their behaviour. What incredibly holy souls!’
In life, there are always two sides to every coin. No matter how inappropriately someone appears to be behaving, with the right attitude, you can feel compassion for them. Reb Levi Yitzchak didn’t see a fellow who was degrading his prayers, he saw a man who was wearing tefillin even though he had to rush off to work! Can you imagine how that fellow must have felt when the rabbi ‘caught’ him multitasking? And yet Reb Levi Yitzchak immediately assuaged his embarrassment by finding something positive and encouraging in his actions.
You can always find positivity in every person and every situation. If you can’t see it, stop judging the other person for their behaviour, and start judging yourself for your inability to be compassionate. May you always see the overwhelming goodness in every individual!