Recently one of our fellow Jews, Alan Dershowitz, has been the subject of scurrilous and unfounded allegations of sexual impropriety. Some Jews have spoken out in his defense, some have chosen the lower road of siding with his accusers and others have remained silent.
Dershowitz has been a vocal defender of Israel and a champion of civil rights for Jews and many others facing injustice. Whether you agree or disagree with his positions, if one is to be fair, one must respect Dershowitz for his commitment to Israel, our people, and the cause of justice.
We all have our share of hurts, disappointments and failures. Some are exposed and throbbing, others are hidden and festering. Some of us grow from the difficulties we encounter and use our stories to help and educate others. Others become embittered and cynical from their challenges. It is the latter group that tends to view situations like the one Alan Dershowitz is facing with an inner glee at his alleged failure in hopes of feeling better about themselves. How sad! How wrong!
Judging others favorably is a mitzvah. Most of us want to be given the benefit of the doubt yet we often fail to do the same for others. Instead of rushing to judgment we should try to view the person in a favorable light. It is to our merit to do so and the Torah teaches us the way we treat others is how G-d will treat us.
There is not one scintilla of evidence that supports the allegations against Mr. Dershowitz. Furthermore he has lived his life in way that may elicit criticism for the causes he chooses to be involved in but there has never been a question about his integrity nor his commitment to being a Jew committed to the welfare of Israel, the Jews, and tikkun olam. He deserves our support.
While I have used Mr. Dershowitz’s horrible situation as an example of the need to give the benefit of the doubt, it is a good reminder for us in all our dealings. Giving the benefit of the doubt does not require us to don blinders and deny reality. It does require that we not assume the worst of others. Judging others favorably is often a very powerful tool for teaching others and helping them to make positive changes in their own lives.
May we be blessed with the gift of judging others favorably. It’s a mitzvah that makes a huge difference.