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Tuesday, August 13, 2013
The Way We Judge
Here is one of my favorite stories:
One day, Gandhi was approached by a woman who was deeply concerned that her son ate too much sugar. “I am worried about his health,” she said. “He respects you very much. Would you be willing to tell him about its harmful effects and suggest he stop eating it?” After reflecting on the request, Gandhi told the woman that he would do as she requested, but asked that she bring her son back in two weeks, no sooner. In two weeks, when the boy and his mother returned, Gandhi spoke with him and suggested that he stop eating sugar. When the boy complied with Gandhi’s suggestion, his mother thanked Gandhi extravagantly but asked him why he had insisted on the two-week interval. “Because,” he replied, “I needed the two weeks to stop eating sugar myself.”
- told by Al Gore in the compilation Rosh HaShanah Readings ed. by Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins
Often it is easier to see the flaws in others than to see the flaws within ourselves. How many times in a week might we catch ourselves pointing out the shortcomings of our partners? Our children? Our parents? Our friends? As human beings we are constantly making judgments about the world around us – including judgments about others. During these days of Elul our awareness of how quick we can be to judge is heightened. A moment of teshuva, of turning, can come when we realize what we are doing, and choose a different path. When the impulse to criticize or “rehabilitate” others arises, we remind ourselves to instead look within, and do our best to work on those same imperfections within our own characters.