You will be clean before Hashem and before Yisrael (Bamidbar 32:22)
I saw an amazing thought this week written by Rabbi Raphael Leban, who lives in Denver. This week’s parsha includes an account regarding two of the tribes deciding they want to inherit land on the other side of Jordan River. After discussing the matter, Moshe allows them. He reiterates the request and states that the tribes must fight in Eretz Yisrael before settling in their land. Afterwards, they may return home and “be clean before Hashem and Yisrael”.
The Chasam Sofer has a problem with the order of the words in this verse. Normally when we speak, we build up to the more significant. For example, says Rabbi Leban, people usually ask for a hot dog with ketchup. They don’t say give me ketchup and a hot dog. Therefore, in our verse, Hashem should come at the end as he is more significant.
The answer is that the order is correct. Sometimes there are things we do which might be fine according to Hashem’s law, but in other peoples’ eyes it is incorrect. We can be following the law properly, but if we do something that looks wrong to others, it is wrong.
Most mornings after davening, I learn Mishna Brura with some of the other people who daven at the Neitz minyan with me. We are currently learning the halachos of reading from the Torah and calling up people for aliyos. I don’t want to get into the specifics right now (because it would take a few pages to explain), but one of the men in the group keeps saying that he is bothered with certain halachos. Certain halachos say that the reason we do certain things when calling up individuals for aliyos is so the other congregants do not think a certain Cohain or Levi has a blemish against them. He keeps asking, “but don’t we have a mitzvah to judge favorably? Shouldn’t people think in a more positive way and not think the Cohain or Levi has a blemish?”
I recently answered him that although each person has a mitzvah to judge favorably, every person also has an obligation to make sure that others do NOT need to judge him favorably. They have to make sure the way they behave does not force someone else to judge them with the benefit of the doubt – even if he is acting properly.
One morning, the Chofetz Chaim showed up late for davening. After davening was over, the Chofetz Chaim announced to all of the students that there was a certain mitzvah he needed to take care of that morning and that is why he showed up late. The students told him that he did not need to explain this to them because how could they think the Chofetz Chaim was not doing something properly. The Chofetz Chaim thanked them for judging him favorably but stated that every person has to make sure that others are not forced to judge him favorably.
In our daily activities, we do not only need to be concerned with what the Jewish law states, but we also need to be concerned what others would think if they saw us do that activity. If others can have a negative image of what we are doing, then if we can avoid doing it, we should abstain from it. Sometimes things are unavoidable, but even in those situations we must make sure we limit the amount of questionable activities. We must always be concerned what others will think regarding what we are doing.
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