Find Out What It Means to Me - Judging Favorably (Discussion)

How are we supposed to deal with people we can't stand? If someone does not seem to deserve respect, how can we be expected to respect them?

Includes both Advisor and Teen versions.

Download PDF

Yesterday, we learned that the definition of giving respect is sharing something great about someone else. But there is one little problem with that: sometimes, we might not feel that people deserve respect. And that person may be someone important in our lives, such as our parents, our friends, or our teachers. So what are we supposed to do? How are we to deal with the people who are so important to us when they do not deserve respect? Let’s see the first source.


“A Person doesn’t do something wrong unless a crazy thought enters them. [Loose translation]” - Gemara Sotah, 3a

Share with the NCSYers that even for themselves, the only time we are not nice to others is when WE are struggling or upset with something. So isn’t that the same reason why others are not nice to us? So when people treat is in a way that we do not like, we have to remember that there is something tough going on in their life. Even more, see the next source.


“Don’t judge your friend until you reach the place he is at.” - Mishna Pirkei Avos, Chapter 2, Mishna 5

Ask for 2 volunteers who do not know each other, or who do not know each other well. Ask one of them if they know EXACTLY what it feels like to be the other person. Ask them if the know what that other goes through when they make a decision. The obvious answer is that they do not. Then, share with them that the two volunteers are no different than any two people. In the same way the one volunteer cannot speak for another, so too we cannot understand the thinking process of another person. So when they are not reasonable, we have to remember that it is not a reason to not give respect. People don’t have the same scenarios of life. Some have stresses that no one else knows about. Some have personal issues that no one else knows about. Therefore, the Torah requires that when we see something happen that seemingly should not have happened- because it is rude, or inappropriate or wrong, etc- we must not judge until we can grasp the factors that donated to the decision to do that action. This is not only a moral obligation- it is part of Jewish law. I am REQUIRED to judge favorably, unless I know all of the factors that were utilized in making the decision that I am not happy with. But there is one more point.


“The gentle words of the wise are heard above the shouts of a king over fools.” - Koheles [Ecclesiastics], 9:17

Once we actually get to the point of whether or not we will be respectful to others, we must make sure that we communicate in a calm manner. Screaming breeds screaming. Calm breeds calm. Think about a fight with your parents. If it began with a parent screaming, you probably were more fired up. Now try to think of a scenario where someone approached you with criticism but they did so calmly. It is more likely that you received the message better and without a raised voice. So when you respond to someone who you are struggling to respect, you will get much more accomplished if you approach them calmly.


The Rabbis taught, one who judges their friend favorably will be judged favorably. There was a man from the Galil who was hired to work in someone’s house of who lived in the southern part of Israel for 3 years. One year, before Yom Kippur, the worker was to go home and went to collect his wages from his boss. “Give me my salary so I can go feed my wife and children.” The boss said, “I have no money.” “Then give me fruit.” “I have no fruit.” “Then how about land.” “I have none of that either.” “How about animals?” “Nothing.” “Pillows and blankets?” “Nada.” The worker flung his belongings over his shoulder and headed home upset. After Sukkos of that year, the boss made a trip to the home of his worker with 3 donkeys loaded with goodies. He gave all of these gifts to the worker, as well as his unpaid wages. As he gave over the money, the boss asked, “What were you thinking when I told you I had none of the items you asked for?” “Very simple: I thought you had no money because you had a business opportunity that you couldn’t pass up; that you had no animals because you lent them to someone in need; that you had no land because you rented it to someone to grow their own products on it; that you had no fruit because maser [giving a tenth of income] had still not been taken off yet; that you had no pillows and blankets because you gave your material belongings to the Beis HaMikdash.” “Unbelievable,” the boss said. “Every last word you just said is exactly as it occurred. In the same way you judged me favorably, May Hashem Judge you favorably as well.” - Gemara Shabbos, 127b