When Rav Moshe Feinstein lived in Europe, there was a man in his shul that always had a problem with a scene from Parshas Vayera. In this week’s parsha, Lot’s daughters make their father drunk and have children from him. This man would always mock them and ask how they could do such a disgusting act. As this man got older, he became very sick and was sent to a hospital. In the hospital, he would go in and out of being in a coma. One time when Rav Moshe came to visit him, the man was sweating and looked very nervous. The man told the Rav that he had just seen the daughters of Lot and they said they were waiting for him. They were going to show this man that the act they did with their father was really a holy act. They were not aware that the only place being destroyed was Sodom; they thought the entire world was being destroyed like the flood. Therefore, their intentions were pure.
There is a great lesson we can learn from this story. We sometimes see people perform terrible acts and wonder how they can do them. If we only knew what the person was really thinking when they performed these acts, maybe we would see the truth and learn that the person had the holiest of intentions. Now, of course, this does not mean we should walk around blindly and find excuses for people when they do improper acts. If we see someone running out of a jewelry store and the owner is screaming “Thief! Thief!” we should not say “maybe this guy has good intentions for stealing the jewelry.” We should certainly call the police immediately! But whenever we can, we should try to judge with a good eye.
Rav Schwab was once on a bus in the middle of the night when it broke down. There was a 24-hour diner nearby so the riders on the bus were told to wait there until a new bus would come. The diner had only a few people in it. Rav Schwab noticed in one of the corners was an Orthodox Jew he knew who was eating non-kosher food from the diner. He was wondering if he should go over to the person and say something or just judge him favorably. In the end, he decided not to say anything. A few weeks later, he was visiting people at a hospital and saw this person. He inquired why the person was there and learned the person had a rare disease that whenever he felt hungry, he was to immediately eat something. If he did not, he would die. This is why the man was eating non-kosher food in the diner – so he could stay alive!
Sometimes, we do not know the full story, so it is always a good idea to try to judge people with the benefit of the doubt.
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