The Shabbat Cigarette

Shalom Aleichem!

Every holiday should have a “takeaway,” no?

What was your “takeaway” for Passover this year? Please email me, I would like to hear about it, or any other interesting story that happened to you recently.

Mine was that true wisdom means always viewing yourself as being like a newborn child, at the beginning of knowledge. 

If I am able to live with this perspective, then I think that I will be able to learn from anybody and anything.

Which reminds me of a story:

The Belzer Rebbe was a great lover of the Jewish people, and was always able to find a favorable point about anyone. In fact, he used to say that nowadays, there are no “bad” Jews. Additionally, those who do not follow the Torah and its commandments are certainly not to blame, for they must have never been educated properly to appreciate the Jewish traditions.

Once, the Belzer Rebbe was walking in the street on Shabbat, with a number of his Chassidim. On a nearby street corner, they saw a Jew walking while smoking a cigarette (a forbidden act on the holy day). 

As this anonymous Jew noticed the Rebbe and his Chassidim approaching, bedecked in their finest Shabbat clothing and shtreimels (festive fur hats), he cast his cigarette aside.

The Belzer Rebbe commented to his Chassidim, “He must have forgotten that today is Shabbos! When he saw us dressed in our shtreimels, he remembered that today is the holy day and tossed his cigarette away.”

It seems to me highly doubtful that the Belzer Rebbe actually thought that this cigarette-smoker truly forgot that it was Shabbat. To me that seems a bit naive. 

Judging another favorably does not mean to say something that isn’t (and perhaps cannot be!) accurate, just for the sake of being “favorable.”

The Belzer Rebbe presumably did not mean that the person actually forgot what day of the week it was, but rather, that he forgot what Shabbat is. He must never have been educated as to the beauty of Shabbat. Did he know that today was Shabbat? Sure he did. But he must not have known what Shabbat is. 

Judging another favorably cannot mean to recite vapid compliments about another seemingly-guilty person. 

To truly succeed at living with my “Passover Takeaway,” I will have to work hard at always finding something positive to say about another person. It is my task to dig until I  can uncover the good within everyone — even, or perhaps, specifically, when it is hard to see it.

There is a point of light inherent within every one of us; sometimes, I just have to search for it.

Shabbat Shalom,