We’ve all been there, in a public place with an obnoxious child and a parent trying to discipline him. It happened to me this week. I was at our local clinic and a wild little girl was there. Exasperated her mother told her to go outside and play on the grass as her noise was bothering the doctors. The little girl did comply but not without sticking out her tongue at her mother. Just as I was about to label the child as brazen, warning bells went off in my memory bank. Suddenly, I remembered an incident from years ago.
We had invited some special Shabbat guests whom I really wanted to impress. As the men went to Friday night services I was left at home with the woman and our little children. One of mine was, like the girl in the clinic, being loud and obnoxious. So I sent him to his room. And just like the little girl he did comply, but not without calling me a stupid dog.
Well, the look on the woman’s face, the woman whom I had wanted to impress, was full of disdain. She immediately labeled my child as a brat. Somehow, though, I had the gumption to refute her condemnation. After all, my child calling me a stupid dog was a one second photo frame in his life. There were many other frames in which this child had been kind, caring, sensitive, giving, in short a good child. I knew the woman was foolish for judging him so quickly.
On Yom Kippur we recall a number of sins and ask HaShem to forgive us for each and every one of them. For me, year after year, I pound my chest a little harder when I recite, For the sin committed before you in passing judgment. For just like that Shabbat guest I wanted to impress, I also tend to judge others quickly based on one photo frame.
Every year anew I vow to become better at giving my fellow man the benefit of the doubt. I constantly hope that there has been some improvement from year to year. I pray that HaShem will forgive me for the times I have had harsh opinions of others. And I pray that He will judge me with kindness and mercy.
May we all be signed and sealed in the Book of Life.