In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 25, 2009 / 2 Sivan 5769

Does ‘judge favorably’ have limitations?

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q. I know I'm supposed to give people the benefit of the doubt. Does that mean I have to actually believe they're good?

A. The Torah commands, "Judge your fellow righteously" (Leviticus 19:15). The simple meaning is that the judge needs to judge impartially between rich and poor, but the Talmud adds another meaning: "Judge your fellow favorably." (1) This meaning is supported by the language of the verse because judging someone righteously can also mean judging that they are righteous.

But what does that mean? Does it mean merely withholding judgment? Or at the other extreme actually being convinced of the person's righteousness? Consider the following story from the Talmud:

The rabbis taught: one who judges others favorably, others will judge him favorably. There was once a man who came from the Upper Galilee and hired himself out to a certain householder in the south for three years. Yom Kippur eve he said to him, give me my pay, so that I may provide for my wife and children. He said, I have no money. He said to him, give me produce. He said, I have none. Give me land. I have none. He packed up his possessions and went home in a dark mood. After the holiday the householder took his pay, and with it three loaded donkeys, one with food, one with drink, and one with delicacies, and he went to [the worker's] house. After they ate and drank and he gave him his pay, he said: When I told you I had no money, what did you suspect? He replied, perhaps an unusual bargain presented itself you spent it on that… And when you asked for land and I said I had no land what did you suspect? He said, perhaps it is rented out to others… .He said to him, thus exactly it was! …Just as you judged me favorably, so may G-d judge you favorably. (2)

We see that the worker didn't merely say, "I assumed you had a good reason." Rather, he came up with a specific plausible explanation that would reflect favorably on the employer. So it seems that "withholding judgment" is not really enough.

On the other hand, one is permitted to take reasonable precautions towards a suspicious figure, even as one judges him favorably. A midrash states, "Let everyone be in your eyes as a bandit, yet respect him as Rabban Gamliel did". The passage goes on to tell that Rabban Gamliel took in a stranger as a house guest. On the one hand he respected the man as he would any house guest, but on the other hand he took the precaution of removing the ladder to the man's attic guest room just in case the man turned out to be a thief - which was in fact the case. (3)

It seems that the commandment of favorable judgment is to do precisely as the worker from the Upper Galilee: when faced with questionable behavior, take a few moments to consider plausible justifications. In some case they will be justifications that would render the person completely innocent; in other cases, they will at any rate minimize his culpability. (The employer certainly acted wrongly when he spent money on a rare bargain when he knew he had to pay his worker, but it is less of a crime than willfully withholding wages.)

In fact, in many places the rabbis referred to favorable judgment as "senegorya," which means literally being a defense attorney. The job of the defense attorney is to be creative in thinking up possible explanations of the defendant's actions so as to minimize his culpability as much as possible. This then is the essence of the commandment of favorable judgment.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Shevuos 30 (2) Babylonian Talmud, Shabbas 127b (3) Kallah Rabati 8:1


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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


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