I was especially intrigued by your remarks in last week’s column regarding the tragic story in Israel. My question is, inasmuch as someone is suspected of doing wrong; do we all have the right to condemn him? Aren’t we all guilty of doing things wrong? Aren’t we all living in glass house? What right do we have to throw stones?
You are right that no one is infallible. The verse itself declares, “There is none righteous on earth who has done only good and never sinned.” But even you will agree there are some sins that are deemed more severe than others. After all, in the Torah, some sins are punishable by a slap on the wrist while others warrant the death penalty. Moreover, as I observed in detail last week, when someone is actively harming others, we have a Biblical obligation to stop them at all costs. Finally, inasmuch as prison is not something sanctioned in the first instance in Jewish law (corporal punishment and restitution is more appropriate and effective), nevertheless, there are some exceptions, one of them being if one is a repeat offender or deemed a threat to society.
As you mentioned, “someone suspected” allow me to clarify the story I relayed last week about the Chafetz Chaim, that seems to have been misunderstood. He was being accused of theft in some trumped up charge. His lawyer told the judge, “Can you imagine someone like this man stealing? They say he once chased after a thief who stole from him, yelling, ‘I forgive you!’” The judge asked this lawyer, “Do you really believe he chased after someone yelling that?” To which the lawyer retorted, “Whether I believe it or not is irrelevant. One thing is certain, they don’t tell such stories about you and me.” In other words, the fact such a story is told about the Chafetz Chaim speaks to his impeccable character.
But the same can apply in the reverse. Even as one is only “suspected” about doing wrong; they don’t suspect or allege such things about you and me. In simpler terms, where there’s smoke there’s fire. And in this instance there was a lot more than smoke. I hope that clarifies.
A Trial Separation
I’ve been married for several years but there seems to be so many tensions at the moment. I wonder what the Jewish perspective is on a trial separations.
The Talmud famously states that it is as difficult before G-d, so-to-speak to bring two people together as it was for Him to split the sea upon the Jewish nation’s exodus from Egypt. There are any number of explanations as to the particular comparison to the splitting of the sea. At a basic level, the sea splitting is something completely contrary to the nature of water. So too, in marriage, we need to learn to really go out of our way for one another, split seas if we have to, even if that doesn’t come naturally to us. However, and here’s the point, G-d’s involvement by the splitting of the sea was required twice over. Once when splitting the sea. But being that everything He does has permanence, no less a miracle was bringing the waters back together again. Indeed once there is a rift, a split, a trial separation – call it what you will – the objective of reconciliation can be just as formidable a task. Do yourselves a favour and go for therapy. It’s far more productive and you work on your end goals together.
No Business Like Shul Business
There was a big argument at a recent board meeting at my synagogue. The end result is that several people are presently not talking to each other. These are the same people who, up until then, worked together towards the common good of the community. How does one bring about reconciliation?
Take this page out of the paper, print off some copies and leave the following lying on the seats this Shabbat morning.
Two friends were walking through the desert when one reached out to the other & slapped him. The stunned friend didn’t say a word but immediately wrote in the sand: Today my best friend slapped me. As they walked on they found an oasis from which they went to quench their thirst. The one friend fell in and started to down while the other reached for him and managed to save him. The grateful friend immediately wrote on a stone: Today my best friend saved me!
The friend who had first slapped and thereafter saved him asked: Why did you record the slap in the sand and the saving on stone? To which his friend replied, “When someone hurts you, you know it’s just his ugly side rearing itself – but it’s not really him. Write it down in sand where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But when someone does something good for you that his true essence expressing itself – that is the innate goodness contained within the inner chambers of the pristine soul – we must engrave it in stone where nothing can ever erase it!”
Can you envisage how much more our individual interpersonal relationships would be enhanced if more of us assumed that mind-set? Can you picture how much more wonderful communal life would be if everyone took on such an approach? Can you imagine how much more beautiful our world would look if we all embraced such an attitude?