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"Judge Not...!"

08/26/2020 06:03:56 PM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

          The small shtetl’s congregation was in the middle of the Shabbat Torah reading when all of a sudden, a group on nine and ten-year-old flew into the shul like a whirlwind with their Shabbat clothes muddied from collar to cuff.  They ran up to the Rabbi and exclaimed: “Rabbi, Rabbi, a cow has fallen into a pit!  What do we do?”  The Rabbi eyed the little urchins with great impatience and replied: “No one must touch the cow!  Livestock are muktzeh (untouchable) on Shabbat!”  Upset that the cow might die, the little boys went back outside.

          A few minutes later a group of pre-Bar Mitzvah- aged boys barged into the shul with their Shabbat clothes looking no better than those of the younger boys.  They, too, ran up to the Rabbi and interrupted the Torah reading by shouting: “Rabbi, Rabbi, a cow has fallen into a pit!  What do we do?”  This time the Rabbi reprimanded the boys by telling them that if they had spent more time in shul and less time in the shtetl’s mud and haystacks, they would know the halakhot (laws) of Shabbat better than they did.  He said: “The Shulchan Arukh (Code of Jewish Law) specifically states in Orach Chaim Chapter 308, Clause 39 that one may not move or lift animals on Shabbat, for they are muktzeh!  Now either sit down and open a Chumash or get out of here!”  Needless-to-say, the boys opted for the latter choice.

          After another three minutes transpired, a group of young women gathered outside the shul.  They raised such a cacophony that it completely drowned out the Torah reading altogether.  The Rabbi rolled the Sefer Torah shut for the moment and went to the window where he called out to the young women: “What is all this commotion?  Can you not respect the Torah and remain silent?”  The young women blurted out: “Rabbi, Rabbi, a cow has fallen into a pit!  What do e do?”  “Nothing,” the Rabbi shouted in reply.  “I have now declared three times that one must not lift or move an animal on Shabbat.  It is muktzeh!”  With that, the young women left.

          Two more minutes passed by bringing a fourth group, this time a group of frantic congregants who informed that Rabbi of the cow that had fallen into a pit.  However, they added one more bit of information the others had neglected to mention: “Rabbi, Rabbi, it is your cow that has fallen into a pit!”  Without even batting an eyelash, the Rabbi declared: “Call Ivan the caretaker and tell him that I said to pull the cow out of the pit by its horns!”  As soon as the Rabbi had heard that it was his cow that had fallen into the pit, he had no problem in pulling a string of halakhic dispensations out of his pocket.

We read in this week’s parashah, Parashat Ki Teitzei, the following passage: “You shall not have in your purse a stone and a stone: a large on and a small one.  You shall not have in your house an ephah and an ephah: a large on and a small one.  ((Rather,) a complete and just stone you shall have; a full and just ephah you shall have; in order that your days will be lengthened upon the Land that Hashem, your G-d, is giving to you.  For it is an abomination of Hashem, your G-d, any who do these --- any who perform falsehood.”  (Devarim 25:13-16) The two sets of stones and the two measures of ephah mentioned in this passage symbolize a double standard that we all-too-often use between the way we judge others and the way we judge ourselves.  It is true that we human beings are very subjective in that we are strict with others but lenient with ourselves.  However, we must realize, especially at this time of the year, that this double standard is dangerous.  Note that we read this parashah during the Month of Elul, the month during which we are supposed to be preparing ourselves for Rosh HaShanah.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov writes: When a person speaks about another person, it resembles Rosh HaShanah, the Day of Judgement.  Therefore, one must look carefully at himself if he has the right to judge the other person.”  Rebbe Nachman explains that because no one has the measure of mercy that Hashem has, no one can judge his fellow human being as mercifully as Hashem can.  “Middah k’neged middah “ --- “a turn for a turn”:  a person is judged in the same way s/he judges others.  Either we should judge others with at least the same leniency with which we judge ourselves or --- even better --- we should refrain from judging others altogether.  In that way, perhaps, we will merit a favorable judgement from Hashem.  May each of us receive just such a judgement as we approach 5781.  “L’shanah Tovah Tikateyvu!”


Thu, April 22 2021 10 Iyyar 5781