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judging favorably

Learn from Moses and experience how important it is to judge people favorably!

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is “Devarim” (Numbers 1:1-3:22) and it we read what can essentially be called Moses’ last sermon before he dies, including a review of the last 40 years since leaving Egypt. Among the issues he reviews is the appointment of judges and leaders.

As the passage reads: “At that time I said to you, “You are too heavy a burden for me to carry alone…The Lord your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as numerous as the stars in the sky…But how can I bear your problems and your burdens and your disputes all by myself? Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.”

What exactly does Moses mean when he says, “But how can I bear your problems and your burdens and your disputes all by myself?”

The commentators explain that Moses was telling the people what he had to go through as their leader. For example, If Moses came out of his house early, they would say, “Why is Moses up so early? It must be that he is having problems with his wife.”

And if Moses came out of his house later than usual, they would say, “Moses stays home longer in order to devise negative plans against us.”

In other words, Moses was going through what all spiritual leaders go through, namely, life in a fishbowl.

Everyone in the congregation has a comment or opinion for absolutely anything the rabbi does or says. People who have a tendency to judge people negatively will always find ways to see faults in others. One can find a negative interpretation for anything that one sees.

However, one can also find positive interpretations of the actions of others if one chooses to do so.

For example, when Moses would come out of his house early, they could have said something like, “Look how Moses rises so early to take care of the needs of the nation.” Or “he is likely out early in order to provide for his family’s needs for the day” and the like.

And if Moses was running late, they could have said something like, “He is likely late because he was taking care of his children or cleaning the house” and the like. Of course, Moses was completely righteous and there was nothing negative, certainly not malicious, in anything he ever did.

On a related note, we are told that one who had a bad dream should go to a friend or rabbi to have the dream “interpreted.” The way a dream is interpreted is how it will manifest. As such, the interpreter is told to offer a positive interpretation of the dream so that it will manifest in a positive manner. If the interpreter offers a negative interpretation of the dream, there is a realistic chance that it will manifest itself in the negative way it was interpreted.

The way a person interprets events, and the actions of others, is a sign of what kind of person he or she is. The more goodness we see in others and the events around us, the better a person we will become. You will also be a happier person. People will want to associate themselves with you.

Even if your good judgment is wrong, and the person or events are truly negative, well, so what!? You did the right thing and made God proud. Learn from Moses…experience how important it is to judge people favorably!