Relationships

Beware of Judgment Traps

Judgment Trap
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches (see Likutei Moharan I:113) that before an accused person is finally sentenced in the Heavenly Court, the judges ask that person if he/she agrees to the verdict.

Who would be so daft to agree to a guilty verdict against themselves? You're right - no one. Ah, but here's the trick: If the Heavenly Court would ask us about ourselves, surely we'd have a whole string of "justified" reasons and excuses to get ourselves off the hot-seat. But, the Heavenly Court is crafty; we are asked to judge another person. Our judgment of a fellow human is in effect our judgment against ourselves, what's known as "the judgment trap". Chapter 12 of the Book of Samuel II shows us a prime example:

Nathan the Prophet asked King David for his opinion in judging a difficult matter: "There were two men,” said Nathan, “one rich and one poor. The rich man had very thousands of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing but one small ewe which he cared for in his own house alongside his children. The ewe ate from his bread, drank from his cup, and slept in his midst, just like a daughter.”

Nathan continued. “Then a guest came to the rich man. The wealthy host was too stingy to slaughter any of his own sheep to serve to the guest, and instead took the poor man’s ewe and prepared it for the guest.”

King David was outraged by the haughtiness and hardheartedness of the rich man, and declared, “As G‑d lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He shall pay fourfold for the ewe, since he did this and had no pity!”

By issuing a verdict in the case set before him, David had unwittingly set the rules for his own prosecution and conviction!

Nathan the Prophet cried out, “You are the man! David recognized the scope of his sin, admitted his guilt and repented for his actions. Afterwards, Nathan the Prophet conveyed G‑d’s message that He had accepted David's atonement.

We have to be extremely careful to avoid falling into "judgment traps" such as the one described in the above example. Before we voice an opinion, we should stop and think that we may be sentencing ourselves for a very similar misdeed. In order to avoid inadvertently sentencing ourselves with stiff verdicts, we should be lenient and understanding with others.

These last days before Rosh Hashanna are notorious for being weeks of "judgment traps". The best policy is to speak minimally now, limiting our speech to prayer, Torah learning, and nurturing healthy family relations. Limit speech to the barest necessity for whatever business, trade, or profession that we need to make a living. When we do speak, we should exercise extreme caution to avoid judging others. If we do judge others, we should go out of our way to give them the benefit of the doubt, be lenient, tolerant, and understanding. This is especially critical in our judgments of our spouses, children, and parents.

Nobody escapes judgment traps, so don't fall into them in the first place. Hopefully, having become aware of judgment traps, we won't sign harsh verdicts against ourselves or against our fellow human never ever again. May G-d bless all of us for an inscription in the Book of a long and healthy Life for a wonderfful New Year 5780, amen.


Marital Tune-up and Preparing for Rosh Hashana

Marriage Mechanic 23.9.19
Nothing is more frustrating for a couple than not getting along, especially when the husband and wife can’t pinpoint any particular problem. They love each, are more than compatible, yet constant bickering blemishes their marital bliss. They simply seem to be arguing all the time as if some inexplicable atmosphere of tension hovered in their home.

On a spiritual plane, such an inexplicable atmosphere of tension is the result of the couple's uncorrected past sins, which enable stern judgments from Above to linger over their household and disrupt the peace in their home.

It’s ridiculous to let marital peace elude you. The little bickering – unchecked – can escalate, Heaven forbid. A little fine-tuning, especially before Rosh Hashana, will help us nip it in the bud.

Here's how:

Every day we are judged in the Heavenly courts on all of our thoughts, words and deeds.

Every day, each of us is judged about every aspect of our lives. When a person is found guilty of a transgression, he or she is dealt with accordingly. They'll invariably incur some sort of suffering designed as a wake-up call to initiate self-assessment and teshuva for the sin they committed.

Once the judgment has been decided, some form of creation – whether mineral, plant, animal, or human – acts as an emissary to deliver the assigned affliction.

As a result of these judgments from Above, many families find that their home lives are full of strife, arguments, disputes and aggravation. In homes like these, the husband or wife wonders: "I only said one word! How did it blow up into a full-scale fight?" The reason that small issues blow up into such huge arguments is because the Heavenly court has sent a number of judgments down on to their home, causing even mundane matters to become a source of friction and suffering. Once again, that’s the “inexplicable atmosphere of tension.”

As long as they have spiritual “dirty laundry”, in other words, misdeeds that they haven’t atoned for, the husband and wife will have a difficult time in getting along because The Divine Presence is lacking in their home. Until they manage to mitigate the harsh judgments that have been leveled against them, nothing will bring The Divine Presence back. So really, no marital consulting will be effective if the husband and wife don’t repent and thereby erase their outstanding spiritual debits.

Either a couple lives in harmony and the Divine Presence dwells within their home, or they live with the fire of constant strife. There is no third option. A married couple can’t act like two strangers in a Cold War under the same roof with no need for the Divine Presence to be in their home as long as they are acting civilly towards each other. A married couple is a union of two opposites – both spiritually and physically. Without the Hashem’s presence in their home, they can’t even stand to be in each other’s company!

Our sages list a number of transgressions which result in the Divine Presence leaving a person’s home. I prepared this list as an aid for preparing for Rosh Hashana, thus enabling us to identify our shortcomings, get rid of them, and fine-tune our marriage accordingly by bringing the Divine Presence back into our home. They include the following:

  1. Immodesty. For Hashem to allow His Divine Presence to dwell in a couple's home, the man and wife must be modest and holy. The Torah says (Deuteronomy 23:15), “So that He should not see anything unseemly among you and would turn away from you.” If a woman wants the Divine Presence to dwell in her home, she must dress modestly, even in the privacy of her home. Hashem observes the laws of His holy Torah; consequently, He turns away from immodesty.
  2. Flattery. This doesn’t refer to giving a compliment, but it means telling evil that it’s good.
  3. Dishonesty. The Divine Presence can dwell only in a place of truth.
  4. Slander and Gossip. Hashem despises wanton speech, for our powers of speech were meant for holy purposes such as prayer.
  5. Malicious Jest. Hashem loves every human and is sorely grieved in an atmosphere of people making fun of others.
  6. Sadness. The Divine Presence departs from a place where there is no joy.
  7. Anger. Anger is the main reason that Divine Presence departs from a person's home. Marital peace requires an anger-free home.
  8. Dissatisfaction. Whatever their circumstances, a couple should always make every effort to be happy with their lot in life. The Torah warns (Deuteronomy 28:47), that calamity results "Because you did not serve the L-rd, your G-d, with happiness and with gladness of heart."
  9. Whining and Complaining. The single biggest thing guaranteed to bring down a harsh judgment on a person is whining and complaining, for they indicate that a person doesn't appreciate all the many blessings that the Almighty has given him/her.

Teshuva – penitence - not only mitigates harsh judgments, but it enables a person to connect with G-d. Once connected with Hashem, one’s life becomes much smoother. Without teshuva, life becomes a thorny path of endless tribulations. Without Divine assistance, even the smallest undertakings are difficult and unsuccessful. Such a life is full of bitterness and suffering.

People receive tribulations to encourage them to atone for their transgressions. When people scrutinize their own deeds and atone for them, the Almighty has no need to send them any additional suffering. As such, nothing can fine-tune a marriage like a bit of daily teshuva.

Blessings for a wonderful New Year 5780, LB


Practical Kabbalah: The Key to Successful Relationships

Many people mistakenly think that Kabbalah is exclusively for people who are rolling their eyes and floating on clouds. Not true! As you'll see in the Kabbalah lessons we hope to present periodically, the lessons of Kabbalah are ever so practical. Since Kabbalah is essentially the Divine blueprint of creation, its wisdom exemplifies profound lessons that we can use to learn more about ourselves and how to live our lives in the best possible manner.

Today, we'll learn the concept of "light and vessel", known in Hebrew as or v'kli. To better understand this concept, we relate a story from the Gemara in Tractate Taanit. This is the key to success to establishing successful relationships, whether it's finding your soulmate or picking a best friend. We hope you enjoy it and find it both beneficial and enlightening:

The Key to Successful Relationships from lazerbrody on Vimeo.