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How Jews Can Judge Eachother?

A Personal Story By Facebuker Rebbe

I recently received a letter from a friend asking me to be totally honest when answering if I judged them for being less than fully observant in a particular area of Jewish law...

What follows is my reply.... please listen in... You might appreciate the answer...

Dear D...

You ask if I privately not judge you or women like you. I can answer unequivocally that, not only do I not judge women like you - I CANNOT judge people like you or even people like me. The only yardstick a person can hold up to someone else is the yardstick provided by G-d Himself. Meaning if G-d says something is do-able, and should be done, it can be done. Therefore, if G-d tells someone to refrain from something - it can be done. Furthermore, since G-d only wants us to enjoy His world, it follows that what He is asking of us is for our own benefit. That is why, when I share Torah thoughts with you, it is with the confidence that it is for your benefit and that you can do IT - whatever 'it' may be.

But can I judge you? Of course not. I have not walked in your shoes. I am not you, nor do I know the challenges you have grown from in your life. (For that is the definition of challenge - an opportunity for growth.)  Let me share with you a story which will further demonstrate how one can not judge and at the end you will see how one should not sit in judgment but feel saddened at the lost opportunities. (You will see translations sprinkled throughout for the benefit of those who read the story in my book.)

 

The story I am about to share with you relates to my grandmother and I only heard it several years after she passed away. It was told to me by a sofer/ritual scribe who was involved in the details.

My grandmother survived World War 2. Her late husband, my grandfather - May G-d avenge his blood - was a partisan in the woods of Poland and was blown up by an informer who infiltrated their band of brothers and was sympathetic to the Nazis - may their names be erased.

My grandmother remarried Zaidy (Grandpa) Chaim and lived for over 50 years in BrightonBeach in Brooklyn, NY.  In the early 1990s my grandmother decided to write a Sefer Torah as a living memorial to her husband and entire family who perished. She walked into the storefront on Coney Island Avenue, an elderly woman with only her eyes betraying that which she has seen her life. Her posture erect, she approached a man behind the counter and informed him of her desire to purchase a Sefer Torah. He led her to the shelf where the stuffed Torahs and pre-printed ones were kept, thinking she wanted a present for a grandchild for Simchas Torah (celebrated after the High Holidays marking the completion of the cycle of Torah readings for the year and marking a new beginning of the same).

My grandmother looked at him with an incredulous look and said, "You can not read from these!!"

Realizing his error, the salesman quickly called the sofer/scribe from the back of the store who proceeded to show her Torah scrolls in various stages of preparation ranging from 36,000 dollars and up. She chose one more expensive, the dollar amount not being important, but one reflecting the fact that she understood that a Torah was the instructions for living as a Jew so that those who died as Jews, and because of that Judaism, would not have died in vain.

As my grandmother looked over the various Torah Scrolls, she looked at the sofer, the pain in her eyes perhaps a tad more pronounced and asked him, "Will I be able to kiss the Torah?"

Not understanding the depth of her seemingly innocent question, the sofer replied, "Of course".

My grandmother than proceeded to explain to the sofer, Rabbi Pincus, how she survived the war years. Fair of complexion and the ability to pass as a non Jew, my grandmother spent the war years as a chambermaid, masquerading as an Aryan woman, with a cross around her neck, in the belly of the beast - Nazi headquarters. She did this over the strenuous objections of her father who told her on numerous occasions before he died that it was "better to die as a Jew than to live like a goy/non Jew".

My grandmother spent years with a cross around her neck. A cross that represented the silent world who watched as the Nazis tried to do what they would not sully their hands with. A cross that represented a religion who preached that the Jews were deserving of their fate for killing their lord. This was the cross that filled my grandmother with such a feeling of impure filth that it would be over 50 years before she allowed herself to kiss a Sefer Torah.

But the time was not yet right. Months went by and shortly before the Torah was to be completed, my holy grandmother visited the Coney Island Avenue storefront to see her Torah. As she saw the Torah lying on the table with the mantle embroidered with the names of my martyred family, she threw herself on the Torah and started to scream. In front of a store full of people my grandmother’s tears pierced the heavens where her father was crying too.

"Tatte, Tatte, Zos Mis Michel Zain ~~~ Ribono Shel Olam, Bitte' Zah Michel Mir" Father - Father Please forgive me" over and over she screamed and cried. Over and over until there were no more tears. She felt she lived like a goy, while her father, of blessed memory, died like a Jew.

And then... and then she stood up and looked around the shop. She spied a silver pair of candlesticks. She looked at the man by the counter; she looked at the sofer and said to him, "You know, they stole my candlesticks; I really should replace them".

The sofer didn't understand who had stolen her candlesticks and asked if it was someone in BrightonBeach and why hadn't she reported it to the police.

“They stole them" repeated my grandmother, "Hitler stole my candlesticks and ever since then I couldn't light". To the silent people watching my grandmother explained that for most of the years in America her husband, my Zaidy Chaim, was the one who lit the candles because she was 'fashmootzed ah neshomo ; her soul was filthy".  She was angry at G-d for allowing the atrocities to take place, but now her tears had cleansed her soul. She realized that it wasn't G-d, but mankind, who bore the sins of humanity. A Torah- a living breathing manual for living , was to dedicated a few short days hence and it was time to start living and spreading light.

And so, my dear friend D…, I ask you, how you can ask if I can judge?

None of us can judge another but we are obligated to shed bitter tears for those amongst us - be they newly religious, always or never religious - for the opportunities we have lost, never to come our way again.

We must then convert those tears into the fuel which drives us to improve ourselves and inspire others to be closer and closer to our Tatte in Himmel/Our Father in Heaven... For our sakes

...and His...

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