18 Tishrei 5782 / Friday, September 24, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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Look for the Good

Your roommate in Uman puts his wet mikvah towel on the clean-pressed shirt that you planned to wear on Rosh Hashanah eve, after you paid $1000 for this "luxury" bunk…


On Friday night during my recent visit to Uman, Rabbi Lazer Brody told our group one of the foremost lessons we should gain from our stay there. The lesson is to judge others favorably and love unconditionally. One of the reasons Rebbe Nachman says that all of us need to be in Uman for Rosh Hashanah is to encounter all types of people and learn to get along with them.


When you are with tens of thousands of people, you are bound to encounter some who annoy or aggravate you. He gave a humorous example of a roommate that may have smelly socks or who might wake you up with his snoring. Another roommate might put his wet mikvah towel on your clean pressed shirt. This may cause a person to blow his stack and say “I paid a thousand bucks for this?”


Composure Needed: Don’t go with your initial reaction


When provoked our natural reaction may be to react with exasperation and anger. Therefore, we need to realize that what’s happening is directly from Hashem. He engineers situations to test us and to teach us to have unconditional love for others in settings where we have no control.


In the Torah, Hashem tells us that “you are my children”. We have to remember that a father doesn't like to hear people saying bad things about his children. Therefore, when we feel angry, the worst thing we can do is dig ourselves into an even deeper hole by speaking negatively about others. Evil speech results in stern judgments and difficult tribulations.


Rabbi Brody told a true story about a paramedic in Israel who was treated in an abusive manner by another man during an argument over a parking spot. Immediately after the confrontation, the paramedic responded with skill, swiftness and professionalism when the other man's child incurred a serious injury. He succeeded in saving the child's life.


Tragically, the paramedic was killed in a car accident a few days later before his former tormentor had a chance to ask for forgiveness. This man was shaking with trepidation when he realized that he had not yet been forgiven for his deplorable behavior. He went to a rabbi who told him there was only one recourse: He and his family should all do teshuva. This is exactly what they did!


Rabbi Brody said that under no circumstances should we disparage or abuse another person. We never know when someone may be instrumental in saving our lives or the lives of our loved ones. Rabbi Brody quoted the Chofetz Chaim who said that if we see 99 negative things about someone and only one positive thing, we should still consider that person righteous.


Judge at your own risk


The Baal Shem Tov says that Hashem orchestrates situations where we witness unseemly behavior by another person. That person is exhibiting a character flaw that we ourselves possess. When we judge the person, that verdict is applied to us. Therefore, out of sheer self-interest, we should be careful to judge others favorably.


Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin advises that whenever you notice a fault in other people, check where you yourself have that fault. We have a strong tendency to notice our own faults in others (see Kiddushin 70b). This provides us with many opportunities to learn about our own shortcomings, since it is easier to see a fault in someone else than in ourselves.


Apply positive thoughts to negative situations


On Motzei Shabbos, I attended a Melava Malka. A wonderful singer and songwriter Guy Tzvi Mintz performed for our group. He sang an amazing song about how we should view others:


You are good, you are dear to Hashem


You are a son of the King


You have a Jewish soul with a pure heart.


Since that time whenever someone aggravates me I try to remember the concepts discussed by Rabbi Brody: to judge favorably and love unconditionally. This immediately stops the downward spiral of resentment and negativity. I then focus on the beautiful music and words from the song by Guy Tzvi Mintz. This starts to generate positive feelings towards the person whose behavior upset me.


Anyone can find the dirt in someone. Be the one to find the gold!


One of my close teachers explains that when we look for the best in others we bring out the best in ourselves.  May we judge each other favorably and may Hashem judge us and the entire Jewish nation positively. This will surely hasten the full redemption of our people.

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