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"And Moshe wrote this Torah and gave it to the Kohanim, the sons of Levi, the bearers of the Ark of the Covenant of Hashem, and to all the elders of Israel" (Devarim 31:9).
Rashi explains than when Moshe completed writing this first sefer Torah he gave it to the members of his tribe. Actually, the Sages teach that he would later write another twelve, one for each tribe, and he would instruct the sons of Levi to place their Torah at the side of the Ark of the Covenant of Hashem (ibid. 26). However, Rashi in last week's parashah (ibid. 29:3) tells us that the other tribes thought that Moshe intended to give only one to his tribe's members alone and they complained, "Our Teacher Moshe, we, too, stood at Sinai and accepted the Torah, and it was given to us; why, then, do you give the people of your tribe control over it, that they may tomorrow say to us, 'Not to you was it given, but to us was it given?'" Although Moshe was happy that the Torah meant so much to them, this story serves as another example of the importance of giving a person the benefit of the doubt before we judge him unfavorably.
In our house, during the month of Elul, everyone in the family accepts upon him or her self a specific thing to work on at least until after Yom Kippur. Every day, we must check off a box in a chart indicating whether or not we were successful that day to keep our commitment. If we failed, we have to give a certain amount of money to tzedakah as a penalty. Every Shabbos at Shalosh Seudos (the third meal of the Holy Day), we have to read aloud, for all to hear, how we fared that week. It helps us to prepare for the Judgment Day on Rosh Hashanah by making us aware that during these days of preparation business cannot just go on as usual.
One year, my precious wife, Rivky, accepted upon herself to be more careful to judge people favorably when we are in doubt as to their intentions. Then we had an experience which served as an interesting story at the Shabbos meal, illustrating how important this trait is.
Our next door neighbor is an elderly widow. The Torah is very demanding that we never do anything to cause harm or discomfit to widows or other brokenhearted, unfortunate people and so we try our best not to aggravate her in any way. We try not to make noise at night which may disturb her, and, in general, we try not to upset her. Often we look aside at things which she does which would normally cause us to react. Instead of complaining, we try to just grin and bear it. One such situation is the fact that her air conditioning unit is right next to our bedroom window. As we get older ourselves, we are more and more sensitive to noise, especially at night, and sometimes the drone of her motor keeps us awake. But we try to ignore it, knowing that it will stop soon anyway since it is too expensive to keep the system on all night.
One day, our own air conditioner broke and we waited many days for the repairman to come and fix it. Finally, he came and replaced many parts that had deteriorated over the years. That night, Rivky remarked that it was odd that the neighbor's air conditioner was still on. I responded that she must be hot and that she would probably turn it off soon. However, it was on the whole night long and the noise was unbearable. This was especially strange since it was not at all that hot on that September night in the mountains of Ramot, Jerusalem. The following morning, I suggested that perhaps she was afraid to leave her windows open, since she lives alone, and had no choice but to leave the air conditioner on. We discussed some other suggestions for her unusual behavior but none of them really made that much sense. In any event, the fact was that the noise had annoyed us all night and we feared that this might become a repeating event and that we would have to consider how to deal with it.
Suddenly, Rivky said to me that she's not sure that the air conditioner which was on all night was our neighbor's. She told me that she suspects that it was, in fact, our own unit which was making the noise. This didn't make much sense at all since the air conditioner was definitely not on in our apartment. Nevertheless, she asked me to go outside and see which unit's fan was turning. Immediately, I went to check and was flabbergasted to find that it was, indeed, our very own unit which refused to stop working even when the switch in the house was turned off! We called the repairman who said that there must be something wrong with the remote control and that he would come again and fix it later today.
For the rest of the day, Rivky has repeated, again and again, what a lesson this should be to us to always judge people favorably, even when it seems quite clear that they are harming us. Sometimes it may turn out that they had no bad intentions, and sometimes it may turn out that they were not the perpetrators of the damage at all. Sometimes it may even turn out that it is we ourselves who are to blame.
I really hope our air conditioner didn't cause our neighbor any discomfort that night!
In the merit of judging people favorably may we be blessed with a happy and healthy New Year, replete with Hashem's spiritual and material blessings, Amen.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network