The Power of Judging Favorably

“…You shall judge your fellow with righteousness…” – Vayikra 19:15

בְּצֶדֶק תִּשְׁפֹּט עֲמִיתֶךָ – ויקרא יט, טו

This verse commands us to judge people justly and righteously. In addition, Rashi suggests that this verse can be interpreted (not in the legal sense, but) as instructing us, “Judge your friend toward the scale of merit,” meaning, to judge other people favorably.

Generally, “judging toward the scale of merit” is interpreted as presuming a person’s innocence before passing judgment on them (see Talmud, Shabbos 127b). Even if their conduct seems wrongful, consider the innocent or even virtuous (“meritorious”) intentions that may have motivated their behavior.

The Tanya (chapter 30), however, takes this a step further and says that even when you are certain that your friend has acted sinfully, you should not rush to condemn him. Rather, you should consider the difficult circumstances that may have led him to act in this manner, in light of which you can regard his behavior more forgivingly.

Judging Favorably

Though the scenario addressed by the Tanya differs from the classic case of “judging favorably,” for in this instance you must concede that your fellow is indeed guilty, yet on a deeper level, by following the Tanya’s approach you are truly “judging your fellow toward the scale of merit.” For by acknowledging his spiritually challenging circumstances you not only diminish his degree of fault, you also make him more meritorious. This is because G-d certainly grants every person the strengths necessary to overcome his particular challenges (see Bamidbar Rabbah 12:3). Therefore, by identifying and acknowledging someone’s particularly difficult struggle, we reveal his unique gifts and strengths. And by revealing the inner qualities with which he can rise above his unique set of challenges, we truly tip him “toward the scale of merit” and bring out the best in him.

This idea is hinted in the words of the Rambam, who writes that a wise person “judges every person toward the scale of merit, he speaks of his fellow’s praise, and never of his shame.” Upon recognizing someone’s struggles, the wise man identifies and speaks about the unique strengths that that person has obviously been granted by G-d, thereby causing that ultimately there will be nothing shameful to say about that person at all.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 27, pp. 164-165


If you enjoyed this post Please ‘Like’ and Share it that many others can enjoy it too






Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.