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   was led to this action. This critical information sheds lots
      Temple Beth David                                 example, using a psychological or feminist reading of the   of light on the judgment.
         Classes with Reb Shmuel                        text.                                                 There is another dimension to judging others that may
      Avidor Ha’Cohen at Machon                            However, when a person’s opinion is THE center or   be even more important. When you judge another person
      Schechter in Jerusalem were                       source of the sermon and he or she is only drawing on what   in a good light, you are really doing the same for yourself.
      both great and frustrating. I                     is within, then the “waters” are often shallow. However,      When we judge others, we are setting up our own
      appreciated that he would                         when the person reaches outside themself — to mention,   personal justice system. If I am constantly finding fault and
      always speak from the heart                       acknowledge, argue with, or add to the Sages comments,   criticizing others, I send a message to G-d: Shortcomings
      about caring for people;                          then the “waters” run deep.                        should be noticed and highlighted; there is no room for
      about meeting people where                           The thing is, there is no right answer — it really depends   mercy and tolerance. G-d allows us to fashion the very
      they were; and about making                       on your starting point. My teacher Reb Shmuel, z”l, was   justice system with which He views us. If we see only the
      sermons current and relevant                      probably reacting to his ultra-Orthodox upbringing in which   bad in others, we bring upon ourselves the very judgment
      to people’s lives. He used to say, “If you are looking for what   he lived and breathed Jewish sacred literature and perhaps he   that we visit upon others.
      to talk about in your sermon on Saturday, open the newspaper   needed to remind us to behave like a mentsche. But we are      Especially when times are tough, it becomes even more
      on Friday.”                                       coming from the other direction whereby we already have   important to follow this tenet and be sympathetic to each
         He could quote Halacha, Talmud, and biblical verses, but   the Jewish heart, but we’ve grown more distant from our   other so we will be judged more kindly. This does not mean
      mostly he would tell hasidic stories about how the law sets   sources, our wellspring of wisdom.     you cannot criticize bad behavior. What this means is that
      boundaries, but how we should never let those boundaries      Moses, the great shepherd of the people, stumbled in his   you should give him/her the benefit of the doubt. Do not
      interfere with being mentshim or “caring Jews.”   leadership. He had literally rolled away the obstacles blocking   be accusatory and sharp until the real facts come out.
         He was the kind of rabbi who, if a poor person brought   the wells of knowledge for others. But when he let his guard      The Talmud teaches us: “Anyone who judges others
      him a chicken to ask if it was kosher — if it was schechted   down and pretended that he himself was the source of the   favorably  will  be  judged  favorably  in  Heaven.” This
      correctly — wouldn’t look at the chicken. Instead, he would   wisdom by saying, “Shall we bring you forth water” — then   follows the general principle that G-d rewards and
      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.   punishes us “measure for measure.” If we are patient and
      and then declare: “Kosher!” because, I can almost hear him      As the hot days of summer stretch longer into the night,   understanding with others, G-d will act in the same manner
      saying, “What would the poor person eat for Shabbes if you   consider devoting more of this time to Torah study. But in the   toward us. If not, G-d will get his cues, so to speak, from
      told him it wasn’t kosher?”                       final analysis, our highest goal is not to be a congregation of   our own behavior.
         So what was frustrating about his classes? I figured that I   scholars, nor is our highest goal to be mentsches. We should      The Mishna says: “G-d punishes a person knowingly
      knew how to be a good person. What I needed from rabbinical   set our sights on being someone like my Reb Shmuel, who   and unknowingly”! From time to time, G-d puts people
      school was to learn how to read Talmud and Midrash and   was both.                                   in a situation where they pass judgment on someone else
      Jewish law. I was reaching out for skills and wisdom beyond      Paul Arberman is the spiritual leader at Temple Beth   without knowing that it is really a judgment on themselves.
      myself, and he seemed to be saying that the wisdom and   David in Palm Beach Gardens.                G-d passes a positive judgment because of our positive
      kindness you seek is already within you.                                                             attitude toward others, and so goes the opposite.
         I am reminded of the story of God punishing Moses for   The Many Reasons                             Someone who justifies a harshness and difficulty on
      striking the rock in order to bring forth water for the children                                     another person, and is not pained by the hardships and does
      of Israel.                                        for Looking at Others                              not pray for them, brings accusations against himself, and
         Nachmanides/Ramban says in the name of Rabbenu                                                    Heaven starts looking into his own affairs, while someone
      Hananel: Moses made the fatal mistake of saying, “Shall we  with a Positive Eye                      who empathizes in another’s difficulty triggers that same
      bring you forth water,” instead of saying, “Shall God bring                                          attitude in Heaven for him/herself.
      you forth water,” as he does in all the other miracles where   By Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui                   There is a further point to all of this, which is an article
      God is always given credit. The people might have been      We are taught to always                  on its own. When we put a positive spin on someone’s
      misled into thinking that Moses and Aaron had extracted the   judge another person                   actions, this actually helps that individual bring out more
      water for them by their own skill or power.       favorably.  It  is  like  the                      of the good, and helps him/her more easily overcome the
         And since water is also a metaphor for Torah, one could   woman who was upset at                  challenges  he/she  is  facing. Accentuating  the  positive,
      make the case that Moses might be misleading the people   not  being  invited  to  her               however much or little, in actuality draws more of the good
      into thinking that he was not only the source of power for the   friend’s wedding and held           vibes and energy out to the surface. This helps eliminate
      miracle, but the fount or source for the wisdom/Torah that   a grudge for 20 years, until            the bad and negative that is currently there.
      poured forth from his lips.                       the invitation finally arrived                        Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is spiritual leader of Chabad
         I also like this explanation because I think there is a lesson   in the mail accompanied by       House Lubavitch of Palm Beach. Contact him at
      in it that is relevant for today — for we too sometimes see   an apology from the post     , 624.7004, or www.
      ourselves as the only source of inspiration and wisdom instead   office.                   
      of turning to God or our tradition.
         Have you ever heard someone give a sermon that seems
      hollow, or rings false because they quote no Midrash or rabbi
      or Talmudic text?
         It’s not a simple issue — who wants to stifle creativity?
      And isn’t our generation’s voice just as important as those

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