Making Assumptions and the High Holy Days

We often reach opinions quickly based upon a partial picture that we assume to be the entire truth. Judaism, for centuries has understood that incomplete observations and rash conclusions are often dangerous and misguided. The following Midrash illustrates this to us, and it will hopefully give us pause to think before we arrive at hasty conclusions that are often harmful to ourselves and others.

The Midrash tells that one day, as Moses was watching his father-in-law’s sheep, he saw a soldier ride his horse to a stream.  The soldier got of his mount to take a drink, got back on his horse and rode off.  However, Moses noticed that as the soldier dismounted, he accidentally dropped a sack filled with money.

Soon a young shepherd boy came to the stream with his flock of sheep.  When he was ready to leave, the young boy noticed the sack and opened it.  He happily gave thanks to God for sending him this treasure, saying, “Now  I won’t have to work for my cruel boss anymore.  There is enough here to support myself and my mother for the rest of our lives!”

After the young shepherd left, a  beggar came to the stream.  He ate a few hard pieces of bread, drank from the water, and fell asleep on the grass.

Then, as Moses watched, the soldier returned looking for his sack of money. Not finding it, he woke up the poor man and demanded, “Give back my money if you value your life!”  The poor man denied having his money.  The soldier went into a rage and killed the poor man.  After searching the poor man’s bag and not finding his money, the soldier gave up and rode off.

Moses, who saw all this in a vision, turned to God and asked, “How could you let all this happen? Where is Your justice? Why did the soldier lose the money?  Why did the young shepherd find the money? And why was the beggar killed?”

God answered Moses, “You only saw part of the picture.  Now I will show you what happened before and you will see that My ways are just!”  God showed Moses the following vision:

A father was walking with his young son when all of a sudden he was attacked by a beggar.  The beggar killed the father, took his money and fled.  A soldier stood by and watched this happen but didn’t come to the rescue.  As the beggar fled the scene, he lost the money.  The soldier picked up the sack full of money and kept it.

God told Moses, “The father who was killed was the parent of the young shepherd who now found the sack of money.  The poor man killed by the soldier at the stream was the same beggar who killed the father of the young shepherd. The soldier you saw that lost the money near the stream is the soldier who found the money that the beggar dropped as he was fleeing.”

“Now you see how just My ways are!” God said to Moses.  “The poor man who murdered was executed and the money went back to the young shepherd to whom it rightfully belongs!”

“Righteous are all Your ways,” Moses admitted.  “You are the true Judge who does only justice!”

It is time that we also do justice by being” just” in our behaviors and not just being in a hurry to make a assumption.

About the Author
Rabbi at Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Fort Worth Texas Co-Chair of Fort Worth Task Force on Race and Culture Steering Committee of Compassionate Fort Worth Faith Based Committee Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo AIPAC Supporter Jewish Representative at CUFI Events Ordained at Schechter Institute in 1999
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