How do we judge?

Yes, I am beyond disappointed that the Cowboys will not be in the Super Bowl, but I will still watch the game. Many people watch the Super Bowl for the game, some watch because it is a family tradition and others, like me, watch for the commercials. I can’t wait because there are great commercials teaching Jewish values. Years ago there was one commercial that was perfect for teaching an important Jewish value. The husband is making a beautiful dinner for his wife, the spaghetti sauce is cooking on the stove and he is cutting the salad. An enormous and beautiful white cat jumps on the counter, tips the saucepan, the floor is filled with red sauce, the cat jumps into it, the husband with one hand grabs the cat with sauce dripping from her, with the other hand he holds the knife — and the wife walks in. What does the insurance company tell us in this commercial? “Give the benefit of the doubt!”

The expression in Hebrew is “dan l’chaf zechut,”which translates “judge (others) according to a scale of merit.” The meaning can be described in many ways: Don’t rush to judge; don’t jump to conclusions; give people a break; look for the good in others. Possibilities for violating this virtue happen in everyday life and it is a great one to talk about with children, teenagers and adults. This is not only an action, but it is a way of thinking and relating to others.

Another important lesson for all of us is that it is not only about how we relate to others but it is about how we judge ourselves. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt — don’t be so hard on yourself!! Also, relating to ourselves, we must remember that rushing to judge others can destroy relationships.

There are many lessons from our sages but Hillel put it in a way for all to understand (was he the first to say this?). Hillel said: Judge not your fellow until you have been in that person’s place. (Pirke Avot 2:5)

Laura Seymour is Jewish Experiential Learning director and Camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.

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