By Rabbi Mordechai Levin
Published by the Omaha World Herald – July 21, 2012
Sometimes we misjudge others by reaching hasty conclusions based on stereotypes and appearances. We fail to consider new facts and changed circumstances, and instead hold onto faulty perspectives restricted by our past opinions. We misjudge others by impugning their motivation. We are critical of those who have different points of view or because they do not live up to our preconceived notions. We misjudge people based on our very limited knowledge of them and their circumstances.
What needless pain we cause to others — and loss to ourselves — by casting judgment based on our own prejudices, limited knowledge or preferences!
To be able to sincerely judge people righteously requires a basic appreciation of others. Those whom we like we tend to judge positively. Those whom we dislike we tend to judge less kindly. Their actions may be the same, but our attitude toward a particular person is what makes the difference. Sometimes our conclusions say more about ourselves than the people we judge.
Judaism consistently teaches us this. For instance, we read in the Mishnah: “Do not look at the jar but at its contents”; “Do not judge your fellow human being till you stand in his situation”; and “Judge every person favorably.””If another’s actions can be interpreted in both a positive and negative way, it is righteous to evaluate those actions in the positive way. We should avoid making unwarranted judgments and instead think the best of others.
Everyone makes judgments of one kind or another. They are a part of daily living, so the Hebrew Bible commandment (Leviticus 19:15), “You shall not render an unjust judgment; … with justice you shall judge your neighbor,”” is directed to each of us. Whenever we judge others, we should do it righteously.