A Small Victory

A small victory – I didn’t judge anyone yesterday. In fact, I think I’m doing pretty well today too.

I have always struggled with judging other people.

Not only on the big issues – religion, politics, life style – but also on the really small tiny ones – their clothes, their vacations, how their children are doing.

It may be my worst habit (though there is some stiff competition).

The judging happens in a moment. In a flash, someone will walk into the room and I’ll come to a snap judgment.

Two things about my judging:

1. It is never positive about the other person
2. It doesn’t have any purpose or effect in the world, other than to knock the other person down a bit (and build me up as a consequence). My judgments are completely self-serving.

I can’t stand myself when I judge others. I feel so small and mean-hearted. Yet I also can’t seem to stop the judgments from occurring. They pop up before I can get my hand out of my pocket to squash them.

I have found that shul is a great place for snap judgments. It provides so many opportunities for me to judge others.

• He davens so loudly, does he think I’m deaf?
• Why is he looking around instead of facing forward?
• Who does he think he is to daven so slowly?

Where do these judgments come from?

Some of them come from my insecurities – weight, off-key singing, immigrant-stuff, and financial insecurity.

But I realize now that my judging does not emerge from any of my particular “stuff”. The motivating for my judging is deeper than any specific idiosyncrasies – it’s a spiritual disorder.

At core it comes from a lack of belief that God created me with my own uniqueness. I don’t fully believe in my own soul.

I once had a teacher who said something that almost knocked me off my chair. He said, “God made me smart. And God made me stupid. I’m smart in the things that I need to be smart in. And I’m stupid in the things that I need to be stupid in. God made me just right for me to be me.”

So yesterday I had a small victory.

The guy who davenned loudly – I was happy for him to find his own way.
The guy who looked around – I was happy for him to see other people.
The guy who davenned slowly – I appreciated his focus.

And I felt the difference.

I’m not exactly sure what helped me yesterday. Maybe it’s a result of my morning meditation practice. Maybe it’s the result of Ayeka and focusing on serving other people. Maybe it’s just growing old.

But I know for myself that as a work-in-progress it is easy to focus on the work that needs to be done rather than on the progress that’s being made.

My brother-in-law is wont to say: “Just declare victory and go to bed.” Yesterday was a small victory. I think its time for a nap.

About the Author
Aryeh Ben David founded Ayeka: Center for Soulful Education in 2008. Ayeka educates rabbis, teachers, and professionals in bringing Jewish wisdom from our minds to our hearts to our souls and to our lives. He lives in Efrat with his wife Sandra and their 6 children.