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  • Writer's pictureAnat Ishai

We all judge, but the Jewish way is to judge favourably

My first reaction in seeing posts on my social media feed with Channukah bushes was sadness and judgement. It was triggering! And I felt all kinds of feelings around it. These are women, mothers I went to school with, they have given birth to the next generation of Jewish people (insert judgement!) Why do they want to fit in so badly? Why do they want to alter something already so beautiful and perfect? (Insert more judgement).

I’m currently learning with a friend what is means to perfect our personal development in the areas of our personality, habits, actions but all from a Jewish lense. It’s called Mussar!

Here is what I learnt as it relates to judgement.

  1. thoughts are like internet ads, the more attention you give it the more you will get those thoughts ~ train yourself to scroll past those thoughts

  2. Being judgemental hurts you as a human being more than anyone else, all you see is negativity ~ is this how I really want to live my life? (Insert introspection)

  3. Negative experiences impact us more than powerfully positive experiences ~ what were their Jewish experiences like growing up? Was there a lot of Jewish guilt passed down generationally? Was there a real threat in exposing their Jewish identity? (starting the process of judging favourably)

So here it is, we are triggered, we start judging (normal human response). But, we must take it one step further, the Jewish Way is to judge favourably.

So let’s try to unpack this:

The Beginner level of judging favourably:

I don’t know the backstory of why they put up a channukah bush so I’m going to make one up. A fictitious story that rationalized why they chose to express their Judaism this way. Maybe they lived in communist Russia and this was the only thing they could celebrate, maybe they grew up in a religiously abusive home that scared them, maybe they lived in a small town and had no Jewish education. Get the point!

The Intermediate level of judging favourably: Understanding that even the bad is for the good. Where others see darkness others see light. Maybe I can imagine that this home is filled with so much chesed (kindness), morality, love and passion for being a Jew, that while on the outside it looks different and “bad” to me, on the inside these Jewish souls….they are really good!

The Advanced Level of judging favourably: “beloved is the man, for he was created in the image of God”. Look past the bad as if it were invisible, it means loving your fellow Jew unconditionally and paying attention to their virtues than to their flaws.

Judgement comes from a place of insecurity and arrogance. (Aren’t we all guilty)

I’ve never stood in their shoes, I didn’t grow up in their homes and yet it still hurts my heart to see these images. They are Jews, with a unique mission just like me, a Jew yearning for connection just like we all are. Loving someone, loving your fellow Jew even when you disagree with how they chose to live is the highest compliment to G-d. We mirror to him what we want him to feel about us. We want him to love us unconditionally even though we are flawed. We want him to see the good in us, even when we miss the mark. He wants us to connect with him and his people even when we feel we don’t belong.

So this Channukah season I’m asking you to practice “Favourable Judgement”. We will all be at different levels, but we are all capable of striving for more tolerance.

Will you join me? We need more light, help me spread light.

(The teaching shared in this post are from the wise words of Ruchi Koval in her new book. Soul Construction: Shape Your Character Using 8 Steps from the Timeless Jewish Practice of Mussar)

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