Just this week a yungerman approached me and asked why do we find it so difficult to judge people favorably. Is it because we have preconceived notions and assumptions? Then he told me a story
about himself which changed his outlook on people.
He had an older bachur friend who owned a pick up truck for his business. His friend was told that one of the reasons why shidduchim don’t seem to come his way is because when you pick them up to ride in your vehicle it really doesn’t flatter them. So he bought a new fancy upper end car. However he decided that since he only uses on dates he did not want it to lie idle in the interim between shidduchim. So he gave it me to use until the time came up. So imagine here I am, the one who goes in front of the tuition committee and I plead to them that I am very tight with income.
The next day he sees me riding in this ostentatious vehicle and I could see the crazy look of amazement that was written all over his face. It was then I realized that even if the situation appears 90% on the negative side with the verdict of guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, one is still encouraged to judge a person lekaf zechus because it is so very possible that you could never ever in your wildest dreams concoct up what really happened, but it did.
Then I went on to tell him my story. I was asked to host a divorced man for shabbos who was about to propose to a divorced woman in my neighborhood on Sunday. During the tish that Friday night following the seuda, as the bachurim were banging on the table together with passionate singing, one of the leaves in the table broke. Nu Nu what do you want from a yeshiveshe hand me down set after being so weary from such battle fatigue. Motzoai Shabbos as my guest was about to leave he said “I want to be at your tish every Shabbos so I am sending you my dining room set from Chicago since I am about to be engaged and will not be using anyway”. Well what could I say?
When it arrived it was a magnificent set something that I would not have dreamed of buying. One could understand the uncomfortable ness that I experienced every time the bachurim and yungerlite visited my tish where I found myself restating over and over again “oh no, this set I didn’t buy, some rich guy from Chicago sent it to me because he ate over my house for shabbos”. In fact one of my friends said why didn’t you give him a ride in your yeshiveshe car then he might have sent you his Lexus from Chicago?
When you are the victim of those seemingly uneasy explainable situations, you fully understand why you must reciprocate and judge favorably. Then I told him that I really feel that if one was truly happy inside20himself which stems from emunah in Hashem, he would look favorably at others. When one is unhappy and down on himself, when one sees himself in the negative light, when one’s own middos are not in the state they are supposed to be on, then the inner anger and criticism are deflected to someone else, a spouse, child, friend, rebbe, a group or sect of people, an organization, an employee, the meshulach who knocks at your door, or even your dog. After the crossing
of the Yam Suf the Yidden came to the place of Marah and they couldn’t drink the water there כי מרים הם because they were bitter. Some mefarshim explain that the word “they” is not referring to the waters but rather to the people. When an individual is bitter inside, then anything or anybody he comes in contact with is bitter. It is as though he was wearing glasses that has a milk spot on the lens. Everything he sees has a stain of white in it.
An ongoing hostile and belligerent responses to various situation wave the flag of an unhappy person. One who always criticizes and finds faults in others is only covering up the shortcomings and failures that he has within himself. His middos are far from perfection and because of this imperfection he questions everyone even Hashem. This concept Rav Yechezkeil from Kozmir brings out in the passuk in our parsha
את ערלת לבבכם וערפכם לא תקשו עוד ומלתם And you should circumcise your hearts and your necks you should not stiffen any more. However, Rav Yechezkeil put the comma in the reading of this passuk by which another message and teaching can be formulated. Read as follows וערפכם ומלתם את ערלת לבבכם you should circumcise the foreskin of your heart and neck. תקשו עוד ולא then you will not have any more קשיות - questions. The reason why we criticize and second guess people is because we have a heavy foreskin still lying over our hearts. Our middos are far from being of sterling nature. For the individual who possess purified middos, doesn’t even question Hashem but rather accepts his lot and seeming misfortune with the emunah that ultimately it is all for his good.
Eliyahu Hanavi comes to every bris. The reason could be because every bris done to the external body symbolizes the similar bris that everyone must do on his heart. Eliyahu is hinted in the roshei taivos תיקו which stands for תשבי יתרץ קושיות ואיבעיות that Eliyahu will remove all the unresolved questions. The milah of the heart which is the tikkun of the middos brings about the ridding oneself of his negativity and consequently of his kushyos and bashing of others.
The passuk says ולישרי לב שמחה [Tehillim 97]. Those with a straight heart possess happiness. the Targum translates ישרי לב as a heart with answers. What the Targum is teaching us is that people who always seem to question the behavior of others are basically unhappy people. The person who does not feel the constant need to criticize and judge others in a bad light is a truly happy person which is portrayed by a heart that is void of antagonism towards others.
Pharaoh when he chased after the Yidden at the Yam Suf he said אשיג אחלק שלל ארדוף I will chase after them and I will divide the spoils with you. What are the spoils that the enemies of klal Yisrael desire to conquer from us? The answer is hinted in the roshei taivos of שלל - לישרי לב שמחה . For a goy to see a Yid sing with joy to his G-d even
under subhuman torturous conditions became the worst agony for him to bear. What made the Germans crazy was the inexplicable overwhelming song and simcha that the Yidden burst out with at as they walked into the gas chambers to their deaths. This undaunted spirit of faith they tried to break, crush, and divide but they were unsuccessful. The שלל of the Yid is that even during the most trying adversity, the Yid has no questions only answers. The oppression and suffering has made the Yid’s heart as straight and ישר as an arrow and he is able to raise his voice in songs of emunah and bitachon till his last breath.
There was the old Jewish joke of the poor person who daily would get a handout from the rich businessman as he returned from work. One day the businessman lost a sizeable sum of money in a deal. When the man stuck out his hand to receive his daily ration the upset businessman snapped back “Today I am not giving you because I had a bad day”. The poor man now insulted retorted Just because you had a bad day why should I suffer.
Do we let Hashem suffer by not receiving our ruchniyus when things don’t work out the way we expected them to? How about our spouse and children? Should we shower them with our unhappiness so they too will be able to share in our misery? Does our Shabbos table miss out the zemiros and our youngster’s dvar Torah loses our focus because we are too busy sulking and soothing our pain and hurt? Well let’s stop being selfish and straighten out the middos and then we wouldn’t be so effected from the questions, for then we would have very few if any at all.