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How should we judge others?

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Every one of us is in fact a kind of judge in a small claims court. Every day we encounter numerous different behaviors of those around us. We see what they do and listen to what they say and judge them: Are they good or bad, do they behave properly or not? In this week's parasha the Torah explains how to carry out these daily judgments. It is written in the parasha: "You shall judge your fellow with righteousness", And Rashi explains that this means we should judge others favorably.

But wait a minute, does this mean we should judge fairly and justly according to the facts alone, or should we make every effort to judge favorably regardless of the facts of the matter? Many commentators explain that the definition of true justice is to judge favorably, to give others the benefit of the doubt. After all, every matter may be understood in many different ways. Our job is not only to try and understand if the behavior we witness is good or bad but to judge the entire person, not only a specific act or a problematic moment. We need to appreciate the context, the entirety of the individual's personality and internal motives, everything that happened to that individual in the past, and to search deeply to find the good within. Every human being is good on the inside but sometimes not so good on the outside. When we judge someone favorably, we determine that the good is the main thing.


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