We are told to believe that there is wisdom among the nations. Once Socrates was asked what he wishes his enemies. He answered that they should lose the ability to measure magnitude. How much wisdom is inherent in this! Someone who doesn’t know how to assess properly will fail in his every undertaking. He’ll react in extremes and make himself and everyone else miserable. May Hashem protect us from losing the ability to evaluate proportionally.
But there is an area in which the distortion of measurement is built-in. A person is blind to his own shortcomings, even if he tries to appraise himself honestly. Rav Yisrael Salantar ztz”l put it succinctly when he said that there are two paths to judgment – the mind and emotions. But whereas the mind is objective, it is the nature of feelings to focus on one thing it and blur the others. Moreover, the mind can only judge something when no feelings are intermingled, but when they are, it clouds our judgment. This is the reason it is forbidden to take a bribe which will tip the scales in favor of the person giving it.
Let us consider ourselves, by way of illustration. Are we perfect? We’ll admit that we’re not. Are we deficient in any way? Yes. Do we possess bad character traits? Certainly. Sins? Galore. But are we good people? Yes. How does that compute? Because although we have stains on our character, we also have good points and virtues, we have mitzvahs and good deeds and superior features and it is our nature to focus on the light and not on the shadow. It is our nature to accentuate the positive.
It is a well-known fact that when we feel hatred, we focus on the negative and when we feel love, we focus on the positive. The verse in the Torah says: “You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your fellow as yourself. I am Hashem.” (Vayikra 19:18)
Rashi says what is vengeance – refusing to lend someone something because he refused to lend you something. What is bearing a grudge –- lending something to someone when they refused to do the same and saying, “See I am not like you.” He retains a grudge in his heart. And this is forbidden. The Sefer HaChinuch writes that we are not allowed to remind someone of their sin, even in our hearts. The Rambam says that we must erase the grudge from our hearts completely.
How do we do it? How do we forget the injustice against us to the point where not even a trace remains? How can that be asked of us? The Sefer HaChinuch offers a suggestion. If we remember that nobody has the power to harm us, only we can harm ourselves through sin, why should we want to shoot the messenger? Like King David who didn’t allow Tzuriya to harm Shimi ben Gera when he cursed him. King David said, “Hashem told him to curse, so he cursed.”
But I think that the answer is given in the verse itself: a person who loves his fellowman doesn’t seek revenge or hold a grudge.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote, “A man prefers his own foot to the head of another.”
Tenants of an apartment building, with large families, wanted expand their apartments. The neighbor across the street protested. At the time, no one’s apartment overlooked his childrens’ room; when they build, people will be able to see in and then how could he get up for his kids at night? He’d have to put up a curtain. On one side of the scale space and breathing room for six families (thirty children), and on the other side of the scale – a curtain!
Bigtan and Teresh, two of the the king’s guards wanted to kill Achashverosh. Why? The Gemarrah states that since he’d been crowned, they weren’t able to sleep. They said, “Let us put poison in his cup so he will die.” And if it weren’t the king, it would have been a noisy neighbor disturbing their sleep. If you weigh someone’s sleep against someone’s life, the choice should be clear.
You might want to say that it’s the way non-Jews think, not Jews. Not Jews who pray.
A Jew was embarrassed that he had not visited someone who was sick. When he heard he was being released from the hospital, he prayed that he should die rather than be embarrassed.
An avrech prayed that a fire, which had ignited in his village, reach the beit midrash so that it would burn down. Why? Because he missed being home with his family.
A person cares about his own needs and so the scales are imbalanced when he judges his own needs against those of his fellow man. And we learn this so that we can be cognizant of it and we can right the scales; to keep the commandment that is the foundation of the entire Torah – What is hateful to you, don’t do to others. Put yourself in the other’s shoes and you will be able to judge fairly and only then will you be able to compromise on your own wishes for the other person’s benefit.