Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Monday, December 25, 2006

Other People's Aveiros, pt. 1 -- Being Judgmental

When we see someone doing an aveira, very often there's a sense of anger that kicks in. How can those two not be shomer negiah? How can that married woman not cover her hair? How can that guy miss minyan so often? Maybe we'll even back up our convictions with a line from Chazal that discusses severe consequences for anyone who transgresses that particular aveira.

Based on Rav Dessler's revolutionary approach to bechira (Michtav M'Eliyahu Vol. 1, p. 113 - Strive for Truth, Vol. 2, p. 52) , though, I believe none of us has any right to pass judgment on the aveiros of others. Rav Dessler discusses how each of us has a nekudas habechira, which he compares to a battlefront. As all Risk fans know, in a war, the front will often shift, depending upon the successes and failures of each side. Sometimes you retreat, sometimes you cover ground. But ultimately, what matters is where the fighting happens - at the battle front.

Rav Dessler says that our "battlefront" in choosing between good and evil comes "where the truth as the person sees it confronts the illusions of falsehood within him."

Rav Aryeh Carmell expounds on this in "Strive for Truth":

"Behira only comes into play when one is tempted to go against the truth as one sees it, and the forces on either side are more or less equally balanced. The point at which this equilibrium is reached obviously varies with the individual and depends upon many factors, such as herdity, environment, education, etc."

For example, Rav Dessler says that many of us don't think about driving on Shabbos or eating at Chili's - because we've been raised that way. There's no bechira there. On the flip side, many people just speak lashon hora because it's so ingrained in their system; they don't even realize it's wrong.

He adds that the bechira line often shifts from place to place, often as a consequence of one's positive or negative choices (which, he says, is the pshat in the line in Pirkei Avos: "Mitzvah Goreres Mitzvah, Aveira Goreres Aveira"). And one is responsible for the shifts in his points of bechira that occur as a result of choices he made.

What comes out is that we can't cast blame on others for their sins, because everyone has a different level of bechira. Do we know what x's level of bechira is? Do we know all of the factors that went into his level of bechira? Think about the examples in the opening paragraph. Is it within that woman's point of bechira to choose whether to cover her hair or not? Is it within that guy's level of bechira to choose to go to minyan? We don't know. Only God knows.

Now, I know some people will say, "well, I know x, and he grew up in a very frum home, went to chareidi yeshivos, and now, he plays poker, hangs out with women all the time. Don't be naive; he for sure knows better! He probably started off with a higher level of bechira, and lowered it because he doesn't give a darn!"

But that point of view is extremely short-sighted. Rav Carmell lists numerous factors that play into where the nekudas habechira lies. We don't know what kind of emotional issues x was born with, or was challenged with while growing up. I think psychological factors are HUGE here. And that's what part 2 is all about.


Anonymous Burry Katz said...

Just want to add that by the same token, we should give tons of credit to people who have overcome hardships, even if they're far from perfect, because their situations may have dictated that they become complete lowlifes, yet they're okay.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just listened to a great Shmuz from theShmuz on this -
href=""> Shmuz 94 On Being Judgemental

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry - just look for it on

3:07 PM  
Anonymous rinkley said...

whatevah, whatevah yo

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post is so completely true. I think the real concept of being dan lekaf zechus is that you can never be yored lesof daat of any person or truly understand them unless you are g-d and so you cannot really judge them on anything. Unfortunately many people (whether frum, jewish or not) don't understand that.

What happened to part 2?!

1:38 PM  

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