Monday, July 02, 2007

The Challenge of Judging Favorably

L'ilui nishmat Itta bat Eliyahu

Thank you to everyone who learned from the book Chafetz Chaim on the laws of Shmirat Halashon in memory of my mother, a'h.

Picture the scene. You put up shiva notices, sent out bar mitzvah invitations, even made phone calls to tell people about the bris, left messages, sent emails.

And he/she/they didn't come.

Why not? I'm sure there was a good reason. There must be, because the Kadosh Baruch Hu gave us a mitzvah (in Vayikra 19:15) we are commanded to judge our fellow man with righteousness - zedek. And Pirkei Avot that ultimate mussar sefer tells us "Give every man the benefit of the doubt".

The Chafetz Chaim tells us that the key to shmirat halashon is giving others the benefit of the doubt!

Just imagine. You phone up the house of a respectable, even important Rav. To to voice on the other end of the line you ask, "Is Abba there?" The reply is negative. "So may I please speak to Ima?" "No. Ima shochevet im Ploni" (Literally: Ima is laying down with an anonymous man". What to think? Would it ever occur to you that in that house there was a new little baby boy, whom the older siblings were calling "ploni" (little no name) until the bris? And the four-year-old of the house thought that's his name: Ploni. What could make more sense? Ima is resting with the baby! Ploni!

We must go to great lengths to find a zechut, to give the benefit of the doubt. And never more so than in the parent-child relationship.

In Rav Sabato's Shabbat Pirkei Avot shiur, when he came to this mishna, he emphasized how teachers must give the benefit of the doubt to the children who are making trouble. Has the child eaten? Did he sleep enough? What's going on in his house, with his family? But I want to emphasize that as parents and as children we must give the benefit of the doubt!

I can think of several examples where giving the benefit of the doubt would have made things smoother between my mother and me. And at the end of her life, when she wouldn't admit it but she was at best very uncomfortable physically, I learned to give her the benefit of the doubt when she was annoyed with me, to not take it personally, to understand that it was love talking when my mother said things that were difficult for me to hear.

During the shiva I spoke a lot about gratitude. Now I want to encourage you all to give your parents (and children!) the benefit of the doubt when they are behaving in ways that bother you. Reach for that zechut! It might be as close as, "Hey mom, did you eat yet today?" or as far-fetched as "I thought you said your flight was Monday morning, not Monday evening, so I scheduled my flight for Monday morning. I'm so sorry we won't have more time together."

Remember, this is the key to shmirat halashon, which is a critical piece to bringing unity and the final redemption, may we merit experiencing it in our days.

1 comment:

Lady-Light said...

"Baruch Dayan HaEmet on your mother's passing.
Yes, we need to try to la-dune et havercha le-chaf z'chut. Sometimes, it is hard to do.
I really like your profile description: "trying to figure out what the heck G-d wants of me so I can do that." Sounds like me. I also commented on an earlier post, about the mother's son goint into the army (in case you missed it.)
Kol tuv.