Sunday, July 29, 2012

Help my campers learn...about Judging Others Favorably (Part III)

Here is the third and final round of responses from my campers in my Kesher class called Do the Right Thing at Eisner camp in Great Barrington, MA. (A new round begins Tuesday, and we will be exploring issues surrounding our ideas about God) The campers are entering 8th and 9th  grades this fall (they are in two groups). You can see the first round of questions in my posting last Thursday night and the second round from last night

Today we discussed the answers posted yesterday and ended the day by writing answers to questions built from the Middah of Machrio L'Chaf Zechut - Judging others favorably. Please take a look at the campers' responses and share your thoughts, other ideas and texts below or on Facebook!

1. Joshua ben Perahiah, said: “When you judge anyone, tip the scale in his/her favor. Judge the whole of a person favorably “. (Pirkei Avot 1:6) What does that mean and why should you do it?

SB: This means that if you're going to judge someone, judge them positively instead of negatively - go out of your way to see their good side.

PP: It means when you judging someone to see if they are right or wrong you should always "tip the scale" in their favor and say they are right. We should do it in camp because it will make resolving conflict easier. (Hashem will tip the scale in your favor when weighing out YOUR mitzvot and deciding whether you will go to Gan Eden or Gehenem).

MG: When you judge someone you should give them the benefit of the doubt. You should do it because you do not yet have their opinion/side of the story.

LL: It means that you shouldn't have such harsh prejudice toward others because they might not be as "bad" as they appear.

TN: Compliments. Not insults.

HA: Don't look at the bad things about a person but you should look at the good things about a person.

GM: If you are judging a person for the first time, you should judge them in favorable way. I think this is important to do because it is better to have friends than enemies. A person could be having a bad day and snap at you. If you decide they are therefore a bad person, you are creating animosity, when really, if you gave them another chance he/she could be a potential friend.

ER: If you judge a person without getting to fully know them then give them the benefit of the doubt say positive comments rather than negative ones.

2. Nachman of Bratzlov said: "The Talmud says that we should always judge other people favorably. We must also judge ourselves favorably." What does that mean and why should you do it?

SB: This means we must have self-confidence and see the good in ourselves.

PP: If you look at yourself too critically and think you are always wrong, you will have a very low self-esteem.

MG: It means you do not know how others see you. You only know how you see yourself.

LL: It means you must think of yourself well and you should do it because if you judge yourself harshly and think badly of yourself, others will think badly of you as well.

TN: Don't bring yourself down when you look at yourself, notice your beauty, you only have pros, no cons.

HA: Don't be so harsh on yourself either. We should do this because it will bring up confidence and self-esteem.

GM: You shouldn't hate yourself for making a mistake.

ER: Instead of talking harshly about myself and never looking at the bright side, give yourself the benefit of the doubt and give yourself some slack because if you do it your life will be better because you won't be judging yourself so harshly.

MS: Because how can you expect anyone else to love you if you can't even love yourself.

3. How do I resolve conflicts or disputes with others?

SB: Either by talking with the other person or simply by spending some time apart until we are both ready to forgive each other. Apologizing works too.

PP: I solve conflicts with others by looking at the conflict from their perspective and walking in their shoes (To Kill A Mockingbird - Atticus Finch) I see how I would feel if I were them and usually helps me to resolve my conflict.

MG: Find both sides of the story, as well as the story from the perspective of someone neutral. You should not judge until you know exactly what happened.

LL: I compromise with them or just talk it out and figure out why we are in a conflict if I don;t know already. If I know why we are in a conflict then I work something out, and it might not be a compromise specifically.

TN: Calmly, compromises, apologies, noticing what you did wrong, not telling the other person what they did wrong all the time.

HA: I apologize for what I did and be calm.

GM: I resolve conflict by COMMUNICATING.

ER: I solve them by trying to come up with a reasonable compromise for me and the others.


  1. It's interesting to discuss judging in the abstract. But these students are of an age when they are being judges frequently by teachers, parents, coaches, peers and others. How does this discussion influence their view of how the people around them would behave towards them and how they ate going to jugde those around them?

  2. Toby Manewith writes (on Facebook)

    Ok, so I thought of two things:

    A) Pirke Avot 4:1, Who is wise...

    B) Would you rather be right or be happy?

  3. Joan hersh writes (via Facebook)

    “Do not dislike anything and do not decide anything is impossible…
    For there is no one who does not have their hour and there is no object that does not have its place.”

    PIRKE AVOT 4:3

    Excellent responses from the campers. Sometimes we make snap judgements about people and just need to help them develop and blossom. It is not lways easy, but all of us being made in G-d's image, gives us each a unique place in the world.

    Thank you for letting us be part of the conversartion!