וירד יהוה לרא וירד יהוה לראת את־העיר ואת־המגדל אשׁר בנו בני האדם׃
Adonai came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.
(Gen 11:5 CJB)
WE SHOULD NOT JUDGE PEOPLE OR SITUATIONS WITHOUT PROPER INVESTIGATION
Did HaShem really need to come down to check the situation?
Didn't He already know what was happening?
In Midrash Tanchuma Rashi suggests that HaShem did not actually need to come down to view the tower built by the people. Rashi then suggests that the Almighty did so in order to teach us all a very valuable lesson: not to condemn people or give a definitive assessment of a situation until we investigate and understand the entire situation.
All of us judge. We all feel that it is our business to judge others, even when in most cases we assign to ourselves involvement, it is really none of our business. We especially do it in the matters of religion, theology, and politics. Though the Tanach warns us of the evil practice of taking a reproach against someone (Ps 15:3), we are quick to judge people on the basis of hearsay or circumstantial evidence. In a court of law, there is no room for hearsay nor even for circumstantial evidence. Therefore according to what we talked about last week, 'viewing people as Hashem's Image', we should view a person favorably unless we have carefully investigated the matter and have established beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is guilty of the charges against him. Also, we must be sure that our judgment is not corrupted by personal bias, personal interests also called 'bribes', opinions, etc...
The famous Jewish book on ethics Pirkey Avot advises us,
'Do not judge not your fellow until you've reached his place (walked in his shoes). Pirkey Avot 2:5
'Judge everyone favorably'
Pirkey Avot 1:6
In many ways, we assign to ourselves the business of drawing judgement on people and situations even when we lack the elements that allow us to do so. We go by hearsay, gossip, Internet posts, someone else's bias opinion, or even our own so called 'gut-feeling'. As such, we often render judgments about others based on partial, incomplete, or bias data.
If we make it our business to judge, (and it is most of the time really none of our business), like HaShem did in the days of Nimrod, we must take the time to approach the situation and see it close-up. Here is a little anecdote to illustrate the point.
'When Rabbi Zechariah, the son-in-law of Rabbi Levi was alive, people grumbled against him. They claimed that he begged money although he didn't really need to. After he died however, it was discovered that he had always distributed the money to the poor.' (Yerushalmi Paiah 8:8)
This Rabbi seemed to in fact practice the saying of our Master concerning discretion when practicing charity:
But you, when you do tzedakah, don't even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. (Mat 6:3)
In this day and age, social media has rendered it easy to make harsh accusations against others anonymously or from afar without coming closer to the situation as HaShem did in the case of checking the what was going on in Babel. The conversation seems most toxic when it concerns politics, and sad to say, religion. It is generally with those subjects that we seem to be ignoring our Master's injunction concerning disputes and disagreements,
"Moreover, if your brother commits a sin against you, go and show him his fault -- but privately, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother.(Mat 18:15 CJB)
More often than not, based on faulty, biased, and incomplete information, we draw the quick conclusions that our brother trespassed against us, when we are the one trespassing against him by not applying this wise Torah-based advice from our Master. It would behoove us to always properly check the situation or the validation of other's accusations before we agree with them.
We in fact need to remember the Master's injunction that we will be judged with the same measure that we use to judge others. Whether we judge other others using bias, incomplete, invalid, gossipy information; solely by their own merits or lack of them; by the merits of Yeshua and the way He sees them; so we will be judged.
"For the way you judge others is how you will be judged -- the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure to you. (Mat 7:2).
A congregation leader I know was swamped with people accusing each other of 'non-kosher' behavior, actions, and attitudes. He himself was close to his flock and as a result was privy to the particulars of each family. He was familiar with each of their situations. This wise congregation leader therefore decided to implement a rule that whoever had an accusation to bring against another had to first take the time to get to know them personally for 90 to 120 days. As people got to know each other better, the accusations dramatically decreased.
On the issues of publicly 'shaming others' and acting/judging on the basis of incomplete, bias, and in this case wrong ignorant data, we have a very good object lesson about it in this week's parasha. Here is our text,
Noach, a farmer, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank so much of the wine that he got drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. Ham, the father of Kena`an, saw his father shamefully exposed, went out and told his two brothers. Shem and Yefet took a cloak, put it over both their shoulders, and, walking backward, went in and covered their naked father. Their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father lying there shamefully exposed. When Noach awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. He said, "Cursed be Kena`an; he will be a servant of servants to his brothers." Then he said, "Blessed be Adonai, the God of Shem; Kena`an will be their servant. May God enlarge Yefet; he will live in the tents of Shem, but Kena`an will be their servant."
(Gen 9:20-27 CJB)
People often use this text to accuse Ham of homosexuality, but the text makes absolutely no mention of it. This accusation is actually anachronistic, based upon reading the text with the lens of today's culture and not according to its own.
As a result, I remember hearing preachers teach that the descendance of Ham that mostly ended up in Africa (Genesis 10: 6-7), has a particular propensity towards homosexuality. This reasoning can be easily countered by looking at the mores and history of the great empires of the West (Japheth's descendants) who greatly indulged in that sin.
Not so long ago, and sad to say even till today, people justified enslaving the blacks because of a so-called curse put upon Ham by Noah. The truth again is that the curse was not put on Ham, but on Cana'an, one of the sons of Ham. This curse found its fulfillment when the Children of Israel who were former slaves of Egypt, the descendants of Mizrayim who was Cana'an's brother (Gen 10), subjugated the Cana'anites who then became the 'servant of servants.'
This shows us how people again have drawn very serious conclusion about other people using faulty, incomplete, and in this case, erroneous data. Why did they do it? Because it was already in them to do it. It is the belief of this writer that, 'Lie' has no power on he who is hungry to stay anchored on 'truth'.
"How blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness! for they will be filled. Mat 5:6
"Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. Mat 7:7
Jewish teachers teach that the sin of Ham was that his first reaction when he saw his father's compromising and vulnerable situation. was to publicize it to his brothers. Why did he do it? Your guess is as good as mine, but the text tells us of the diametrically opposite reaction of Shem and Japhet who not wanting to even see their father, walked backward and covered his indiscretion. King Solomon teaches us about that in,
Hate stirs up disputes, but love covers all kinds of transgressions. (Pro 10:12 CJB)
He who conceals an offense promotes love, but he who harps on it can separate even close friends. (Pro 17:9 CJB)
MAY WE LEARN TO ACT THE SAME AS SHEM AND JEPATH TOWARD EACH OTHER.
WHEN WE FIND FAULT IN OUR BROTHER, MAY WE BE QUICKER TO COVER IT THAN TO PUBLICIZE IT.
MAY WE LIKE HASHEM COME CLOSE TO A SITUATION IN ORDER TO ASSESS IT ACCORDING TO ITS OWN MERIT.