an eleventh Commandment

Thursday, 28 August, 2014 - 4:31 pm

Dear Friends, 

If I had my way, there would be an eleventh commandment: “Do not judge,” continuing the Ten Commandments we all know about: Do not steal, do not murder, do not covet and… do not judge.

Thirteen years of work with the public have taught me that you can never really be in the other person’s shoes. You can think something about a person, and then suddenly you receive more information about him that changes your viewpoint entirely.

The Rebbe learns this specifically from this week’s Parasha, Parashat Shoftim:

The Torah says, “Judges and officers you shall appoint in all your cities.” Our Sages learn from the phrase ‘in all your cities,” that judges should be appointed not only in the Land of Israel, but rather in every place where Jews live. Why? Because the judges of the Land of Israel cannot really understand a person who lives abroad, and a judge who cannot understand you, cannot judge you, either!

“Do not judge your friend until you reach his place,” says Hillel the Elder in Pirkei Avot. “The satiated does not understand the hungry,” people say, and it’s true; oy, is it true.

So one needs judges and officers, but when the Torah says that officers are needed it says in the same sentence “in all your cities.” A judge can judge only after he has reached the place of the judged; only if he is able to open his mind and understand the defendant and his situation – his weaknesses and his difficulties.

That is exactly my message this week for all of us. As we stand, right before the Yamim Nora’im (High Holy Days), in the days of Selichot, it would be good – a moment before asking forgiveness – to make a resolution not to judge another person “until you reach his place.”


Shabbat Shalom,


Zalmen Wishedski

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