Page 4 - The Jewish Voice - July '18
P. 4

Page 4, The Jewish Voice

                                                                  From the Rabbis

A Teacher’s Impact                                                of generations past? I do think we can enjoy hearing about       	 It is also very important to consider the circumstances
                                                                  a person’s personal reaction to a Torah story; and I do want     and inner life of the person, the reasons why this person
By Rabbi Paul Arberman,                                           to hear about modern ways of reading the Talmud — for
Temple Beth David                                                 example, using a psychological or feminist reading of the        was led to this action. This critical information sheds lots
	 Classes with Reb Shmuel                                         text.
Avidor Ha’Cohen at Machon                                         	 However, when a person’s opinion is THE center or              of light on the judgment.
Schechter in Jerusalem were                                       source of the sermon and he or she is only drawing on what
both great and frustrating. I                                     is within, then the “waters” are often shallow. However,         	 There is another dimension to judging others that may
appreciated that he would                                         when the person reaches outside themself — to mention,           be even more important. When you judge another person
always speak from the heart                                       acknowledge, argue with, or add to the Sages comments,           in a good light, you are really doing the same for yourself.
about caring for people;                                          then the “waters” run deep.
about meeting people where                                        	 The thing is, there is no right answer — it really depends     	 When we judge others, we are setting up our own
they were; and about making                                       on your starting point. My teacher Reb Shmuel, z”l, was          personal justice system. If I am constantly finding fault and
sermons current and relevant                                      probably reacting to his ultra-Orthodox upbringing in which      criticizing others, I send a message to G-d: Shortcomings
to people’s lives. He used to say, “If you are looking for what   he lived and breathed Jewish sacred literature and perhaps he
to talk about in your sermon on Saturday, open the newspaper      needed to remind us to behave like a mentsche. But we are        should be noticed and highlighted; there is no room for
on Friday.”                                                       coming from the other direction whereby we already have          mercy and tolerance. G-d allows us to fashion the very
	 He could quote Halacha, Talmud, and biblical verses, but        the Jewish heart, but we’ve grown more distant from our          justice system with which He views us. If we see only the
mostly he would tell hasidic stories about how the law sets       sources, our wellspring of wisdom.                               bad in others, we bring upon ourselves the very judgment
boundaries, but how we should never let those boundaries          	 Moses, the great shepherd of the people, stumbled in his       that we visit upon others.
interfere with being mentshim or “caring Jews.”                   leadership. He had literally rolled away the obstacles blocking  	 Especially when times are tough, it becomes even more
	 He was the kind of rabbi who, if a poor person brought          the wells of knowledge for others. But when he let his guard     important to follow this tenet and be sympathetic to each
him a chicken to ask if it was kosher — if it was schechted       down and pretended that he himself was the source of the
correctly — wouldn’t look at the chicken. Instead, he would       wisdom by saying, “Shall we bring you forth water” — then        other so we will be judged more kindly. This does not mean
look at the person’s clothing and the hunger in their eyes        God saw that Moses’ time as a leader was drawing to a close.     you cannot criticize bad behavior. What this means is that
and then declare: “Kosher!” because, I can almost hear him        	 As the hot days of summer stretch longer into the night,       you should give him/her the benefit of the doubt. Do not
saying, “What would the poor person eat for Shabbes if you        consider devoting more of this time to Torah study. But in the   be accusatory and sharp until the real facts come out.
told him it wasn’t kosher?”                                       final analysis, our highest goal is not to be a congregation of
	 So what was frustrating about his classes? I figured that I     scholars, nor is our highest goal to be mentsches. We should     	 The Talmud teaches us: “Anyone who judges others
knew how to be a good person. What I needed from rabbinical       set our sights on being someone like my Reb Shmuel, who          favorably will be judged favorably in Heaven.” This
school was to learn how to read Talmud and Midrash and            was both.                                                        follows the general principle that G-d rewards and
Jewish law. I was reaching out for skills and wisdom beyond       	 Paul Arberman is the spiritual leader at Temple Beth
myself, and he seemed to be saying that the wisdom and            David in Palm Beach Gardens.                                     punishes us “measure for measure.” If we are patient and
kindness you seek is already within you.
	 I am reminded of the story of God punishing Moses for           The Many Reasons                                                 understanding with others, G-d will act in the same manner
striking the rock in order to bring forth water for the children
of Israel.                                                        for Looking at Others                                            toward us. If not, G-d will get his cues, so to speak, from
	 Nachmanides/Ramban says in the name of Rabbenu                                                                                   our own behavior.
Hananel: Moses made the fatal mistake of saying, “Shall we        with a Positive Eye                                              	 The Mishna says: “G-d punishes a person knowingly
bring you forth water,” instead of saying, “Shall God bring                                                                        and unknowingly”! From time to time, G-d puts people
you forth water,” as he does in all the other miracles where      By Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui                                           in a situation where they pass judgment on someone else
God is always given credit. The people might have been            	 We are taught to always                                        without knowing that it is really a judgment on themselves.
misled into thinking that Moses and Aaron had extracted the       judge another person                                             G-d passes a positive judgment because of our positive
water for them by their own skill or power.                       favorably. It is like the                                        attitude toward others, and so goes the opposite.
	 And since water is also a metaphor for Torah, one could         woman who was upset at                                           	 Someone who justifies a harshness and difficulty on
make the case that Moses might be misleading the people           not being invited to her                                         another person, and is not pained by the hardships and does
into thinking that he was not only the source of power for the    friend’s wedding and held
miracle, but the fount or source for the wisdom/Torah that        a grudge for 20 years, until                                     not pray for them, brings accusations against himself, and
poured forth from his lips.                                       the invitation finally arrived                                   Heaven starts looking into his own affairs, while someone
	 I also like this explanation because I think there is a lesson  in the mail accompanied by                                       who empathizes in another’s difficulty triggers that same
in it that is relevant for today — for we too sometimes see       an apology from the post                                         attitude in Heaven for him/herself.
ourselves as the only source of inspiration and wisdom instead    office.                                                          	 There is a further point to all of this, which is an article
of turning to God or our tradition.                                                                                                on its own. When we put a positive spin on someone’s
	 Have you ever heard someone give a sermon that seems                                                                             actions, this actually helps that individual bring out more
hollow, or rings false because they quote no Midrash or rabbi                                                                      of the good, and helps him/her more easily overcome the
or Talmudic text?                                                                                                                  challenges he/she is facing. Accentuating the positive,
	 It’s not a simple issue — who wants to stifle creativity?                                                                        however much or little, in actuality draws more of the good
And isn’t our generation’s voice just as important as those                                                                        vibes and energy out to the surface. This helps eliminate
                                                                                                                                   the bad and negative that is currently there.
                                                                                                                                   	 Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is spiritual leader of Chabad

                                                                                                                                   House Lubavitch of Palm Beach. Contact him at

                                                                                                                                   Rabbi@chabadpalmbeach.org, 624.7004, or www.

                                                                                                                                   chabadpalmbeach.org.

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