Dedicated for a Refuah Shelemah for Daniel Ben Aishe
Hashem is Watching…
The first passuk in Kedoshim begins, “Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to the entire assembly of B’nei Yisrael and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, Hashem your G-d, am holy.”
In the previous parshiot we learned about the animals that we’re not allowed to eat. Then we learned about prohibited relations and immoral acts. The Torah prohibits all of these thing so that our neshamot won’t become contaminated. A fringe benefit of observing these prohibitions is that they train us in the practice of self-discipline, which every one of us needs to live a successful and productive life.
Now we continue to learn what the nation that represents Hashem must do, and how we must act amongst each other in order to sanctify Hashem’s name. We learn how we must deal honestly with our fellow Jew and non-Jew alike in all of our business dealings. This is the theme of this week’s parasha, where Hashem gives the Jewish nation all the laws that we must adhere to for a healthy and fulfilling life.
Most of the decrees are between man and his fellow man. We are commanded: “You shall not steal. You shall not deny falsely. You shall not lie, one man to his fellow. You shall not swear falsely by My Name, thereby profaning the Name of your G-d. I am the Hashem. You shall not oppress your fellow. You shall not rob. The hired worker’s wage shall not remain with you overnight until morning. You shall not curse a deaf person. You shall not place a stumbling block before a blind person, and you shall fear your G-d. I am Hashem”
We may think that these acts can be hidden from our fellow man. You can cheat your neighbor and he may not be aware of it. You can curse the deaf and he won’t hear you. But according to Rashi, in addition to the literal meaning that you may not put a stumbling block in front of a blind man, the verse also allegorically means that you may not give bad advice to an unsuspecting person. The message of this commandment is that we are responsible for the welfare of others and may not do anything to undermine it.
At the end of the passuk again it says: “You shall fear your G-d...I am Hashem.” So in these pesukim Hashem is saying, “Don’t think that you’re doing something that I don’t see, because I see everything that you do.” Hashem sees all, and we will eventually answer to Him after 120 years!
“Judge Everyone Favorably”
You shall not commit a perversion of justice; you shall not favor the poor and you shall not honor the great; with righteousness shall you judge your fellow. (Vayikra19:15)
Rashi explains that this means to give a person the benefit of the doubt. The obligation to give the benefit of the doubt is recorded in Pirkei Avot (1:6): "Ve'hevei dan et kol ha'adam le'chaf zechut - Judge everyone favorably."
From the book “Classics on the Torah” it points out that in Gemara (Shabbat 127b), it mentions an axiom that seems to be based on the concept of middah k'neged middah: One who judges his friend favorably will be judged favorably. "The Gemara then records several incidents where people were judged favorably. At the conclusion of each event, the following blessing was given to the one who gave the benefit of the doubt: Just as you judged me favorably, may Hashem judge you favorably."
But this statement brings along its own set of questions. If I see someone driving on Shabbat or eating non-kosher, I’m obligated to give that person the benefit of the doubt. I must assume that he has some medical condition that calls for eating unkosher food, or that there is an emergency that requires him to drive to a nearby hospital.
Since I must judged him favorably, and in return, Heaven will give me the benefit of the doubt. But this is hard to understand because Hashem knows my motivation; Hashem has no safeik (doubt) why I did what I did, and any extenuating circumstances that permit this otherwise forbidden act are revealed to Him. Its only us, the imperfect humans, who are uncertain as to a person's motivation and must give the benefit of the doubt.
Before we answer this question, we have another question on the above mentioned mishnah from Pirkei Avot,"Ve'hevei dan et kol ha'adam le'chaf zechut." One would have expected the mishnah to say, " kol adam," which means "every man ." Why does it say “kol ha'adam” whose literal meaning is "all the man"?
The Sfat Emet explains that we are not only supposed to give the benefit of the doubt to the man and the questionable action that he did; we are also supposed to judge the entire person, “kol ha'adam” which will lead us to be more favorably inclined toward him.
I may be aware that there was no justification for the person's action, since it was clearly an act of “chillul Shabbat”. However, the mishnah is telling me to judge "all the man”. This means that I have to take into account all that brought him to where he is today - to the time that he sinned. This includes his poor home-life and upbringing and the trauma that he may have suffered as achild.
This is not to excuse what he did, but to mitigate the severity of his actions: What do you expect, after all he went through? Of course, I know that he sinned and the act in and of itself is not permitted. Yet, all in all, given his particular circumstances, he was doing the best that he could.
With this definition of “dan le'chaf zechut”, the example of the Gemara in Shabbat takes on a new meaning. If I judge you “le’chaf zechut”, meaning that I look at the "whole you" and am therefore understanding, Hashem will, in turn, do the same for me.
Not that there is any doubt as to whether the act was forbidden. I know that my friend sinned and Hashem certainly knows that I did. However, now Hashem will take into account all of my bad experiences - all of the circumstances that made me into a person who couldn't control myself and gave into temptation.
This tremendous chesed is available to us if we initiate it first. If I go easy on you based on your whole story, then Hashem will do the same for me.
In truth, we are constantly judging ourselves as we judge others, for Hashem arranges for a person to be in a situation where his conduct and very words can have far-reaching effects, the ultimate version of: "Whatever you say goes back to you." A person is his own judge and jury.
The Hardest Mitzvah...
What would you say is the hardest Mitzvah in the Torah to keep? Some would say Lashon Harah or maybe Kashrut or maybe respecting ones parents properly? Although those are all important and difficult mitzot to do properly, its none of those. In perek 19 pasuk 17 it says, "Lo tishnah et achicha belvavecha hocheach tochecha et ametecha velo tesah alav chet". "You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your fellow and do not bear a sin because of him". Rabbi Hirsch says on this that this pasuk is speaking of someone that antagonize's you and even though he wronged you, think of him as your brother and don't hate him. Rashi says that although its our responsibility to reprove our fellow Jew, we will be sinning if we do it the wrong way...be careful not to embarrass the one that you try to correct. That's why I began by saying that this is one of the hardest mitzvot, because although you may have all the right intentions when rebuking someone, you never know where that person is holding and if you say something the wrong way at the wrong time, it can easily turn that person off, so instead of trying to help him, you'll be hurting him.
Love Your Brother
There’s a story told by Rabbi Pesach Krohn about a father and his 2 sons. When the older son turned 16, his father told him that he couldn’t afford to support him anymore and he had to go out and get a job. So he said goodbye and got a job and over time became very successful. He eventually became the CEO of the company he worked for and was transferred to the main office across the country. Back home, when the younger brother became 16, the father told him that he also had to get a job to support himself because the father could no longer support him. Unlike his older brother, he wasn’t successful and went from job to job.
One day the younger brother saw his older brothers picture in the newspaper, how he became very successful. So the younger brother decided to take a train ride to visit his older brothers office on the other side of the country to meet him. When he got there the older brother would not see him or even recognize him as his younger brother. The younger brother was devistated but left and went back home. A few months later, the father became ill and was on his death bed. Word was sent to the older brother and so he traveled back home to see his father but the father would not acknowledge his presence as he was giving his time and attention to the younger brother.
The older brother became frustrated and said “Dad, I’ve been waiting here for an hour and you didn’t even look at me!” The father finally answered pointing to the younger brother saying, “If he’s not your brother, than I’m not your father!” Hashem is saying to us...We as Jews are all brothers and sisters of one family with one Father in heaven. Last week Lori Gilbert Kay was shot and killed when a deranged terrorist entered a synagogue in Poway California and began to shoot innocent people there just because they were Jewish. It was said at Lori’s funeral that everyone was her sister and her brother. That was the premis that she lived her whole life, as she sacrificed her own life by jumping in the line of fire to protect the Rabbi of that synagogue.
Now in the days of Sephirat HaOmer when we lost 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students because as the Gemara says, they didn’t give each other the proper respect. As we’re leading up to Matan Torah and the Holiday of Shavuot, it’s become our custom to learn Pirke Avot so that we can learn to love each Jew as brothers and sisters with one Father in Heaven if we expect to bring in the Mashiach in our days! Amen!
May we all be very careful in our dealings with people so that we can sanctify Hashems name! May we always try to give others the benefit of the doubt and judge others favorably so that Hashem in turn will judge us favorably! Amen!
Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey
Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Sarah Bat Chanah Esther Bat Sarah
Shulamit Bat Helaina Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rafael Ben Miriam
Rav Haim Ben Rivka Moshe Ben Mazal
Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal
Chanah Bat Esthe Ovadia Ben Esther
Moshe Ben Garaz Rahamim Ben Mazal
Avraham Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal
Yaakov Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Kami
Meir Ben Latifa Moshe Ben Yael
Malka Bat Garaz Mordechai Ben Rachel
Yaakov Ben Leah Saadia Ben Miriam
Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal
Natan Ben Rachel
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