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My Brother's Keeper

Friday, 13 May, 2016 - 2:35 pm

Trying to focus on the lessons of this week’s parsha, Kedoshim, has me running in circles.

On the one hand, the Torah warns me, “You shall judge your fellow with righteousness.” Okay, so all people are good, or at least I should assume so.

But just two verses later I am called upon to do something totally different: “You shall surely rebuke your fellow.” Why should I rebuke someone if I am giving her the benefit of the doubt?

I came across a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, written in 1960, that sheds some light on this. The Rebbe writes:

You write about meeting a Jew in course of your travels who comes to the synagogue to help make up a Minyan [i.e., the quorum of ten needed for prayer], yet at the same time reads the newspaper… For my part, I make the following two extreme observations: First, I see in it the extreme Jewish attachment which one finds in every Jew. For here is a person who has wandered off to a remote part of the world, and has become so far removed… as to have no concept of what prayer is or what a house of G-d is, etc., yet one finds in him that Jewish spark… “The Divine soul which is truly a part of G-d.” This divine soul, which is the inheritance of every Jew, seeks expression as best it can, and in the case of this particular Jew, it seeks expression in at least enabling other Jews to pray with congregationally. My other observation… is as follows: It can easily be seen what great things could have been accomplished with this particular Jew if, at the proper time he should have received the right education in his early life, or at least the proper spiritual guidance in his adult life. This consideration surely emphasizes the mutual responsibility which rests upon all Jews, and particularly on those who can help others.

It’s easy to find problems in others. However, if we look, it’s also easy to find great virtue in others.

Perhaps, this is why the Torah first tells us to judge others favorably. If we do that, then we will likely end up rebuking someone. But it won’t be them. It will be ourselves.

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