Ethics 101

Have you heard this one? “Find a common enemy and find a fast friend.” How about, “Gain a new friend based upon a mutual hatred?” If you haven’t heard those axioms before you’re not alone. I just made them up, but they’re based upon years of experience as the perpetrator, victim, and observer. We can make every claim in the world to being a Believer, being Observant, or even being a Mensch, but these claims are tainted if we have a mouth that gets the best of us.

In the Mishnah[1] Joshua ben Perachia said, “Procure for yourself a Rabbi and acquire to yourself a friend [chaver], and judge every person favorably.” While “procuring a Rabbi” is best seen by what we put in the Pushke, what is of grave importance is judging each other favorably.

The Talmud uses Leviticus 19:15 to derive this principle: “In righteousness shall you judge your fellow.” Not only are we to be fair and impartial as a jury, but our sages[2] see this verse as a general directive to judge our fellow favorably in the courtroom of our minds! In our private proceedings, we are directed to give each other the benefit of the doubt; in fact we are to “bend over” to see the good in our fellow even where the evidence isn’t readily available.

Shabbat 127b teaches, “Anyone who judges favorably will be judged favorably,” while the Mishnah[3] says that Hashem rewards and punishes us “measure for measure.” This is identical to the sayings of our Messiah who said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.[4]

To continue, He said, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.[5]” In other words, the honor and self-respect a person has is sacred and immensely important to Hashem. To mistreat each other with our words takes what is sacred and allows it to be trampled, Heaven forbid!

[1] Pirkei Avot 1:6

[2] Shavuot 30a, Berachot 19a

[3] Sotah 1:7

[4] Matthew 7:1-2

[5] Matthew 7:6

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