The Other Side of the Story - Giving People the Benefit of the Doubt
The best way to fulfill the mitzvah of judging favorably is to be as specific as possible. While it's commendable to think, "There must have been a reason for such behavior," it is even better to consider what that reason might be. We should first consider the likely, but if that doesn't help we should be willing to move on to excuses that seem unlikely. Far-fetched is also credible. Far-fetched need only mean the unconsidered. For example, take the case of ...
Sima and Tanya shared a room in the hospital maternity ward. Sima had a boy, Tanya had a girl. That's how their friendship began. As the years passed, their friendship continued although they lived quite a distance apart. They called every few months and they exchanged holiday cards year after year. One day, Sima received an invitation to the bar mitzva of Tanya's oldest son. This was one bar mitzva Sima didn't want to miss! But she was invited to a wedding and another bar mitzva on the same evening which she had to attend! Sima decided to attend all three affairs. The night of the bar mitzvah, Sima raced like a maniac from affair to affair. Finally, she arrived at the bar mitzvah. She walked over to the head table where her friend Tanya sat. "Tanya! Is that really you?" Sima exclaimed. She threw her arms around her friend in a warm embrace. "You look marvelous!" Tanya responded with a weak smile. "Where's the Bar Mitzvah boy?" Sima asked. "And where's your little Sarah?" Tanya pointed to her son, and then over to where the girls sat. "What was wrong?" Sima wondered. "What kind of greeting is this?" Sima tried to make a little more conversation with Tanya, but to no avail. With a sinking feeling, Sima went home.
Two days later Sima's phone rang. "Sima, it's Tanya. What happened? Why didn't you come to the bar mitzvah?" "Are you kidding? Don't you remember? I wore a blue dress, I came a little late, I hugged you, I asked you where Sarah was..." "Sima! That was you? I didn't recognize you! I've never seen you dressed up. I guess I'd only recognize you in a hospital gown!"
Sima knows, as we all do, that a host -- when harried and facing many guests -- might not immediately recognize or "place" everyone who walks in. But at the time, that reasonable possibility didn't occur to her.
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