This week’s parsha, Vayaishev, begins discussing the brother’s hatred toward Yoseph. Yoseph’s brothers thought that he was attempting to be Yaakov’s only succeeding son, as Yitzkak succeeded Yishmael and as Yaakov succeeded Aisev (because Yoseph would tell Yaakov when his brother’s transgressed the Torah, making them deserving of capital punishment—their transgressions are arguable however, seeing that the Torah was not yet officially given).
Now, Yaakov’s son’s thought that Yoseph was a pretender to the throne. They thought he spoke lashon hara and needed to be put to death. We have to remember, these men were tzaddkim- righteous men- and they thought they were doing a mitzvah by plotting against Yoseph. Their intentions were leshaim shemayim- for the name of Hashem. However, they were extremely quick to judge the legitimacy of Yoseph’s behavior. Rather, than judging him favorable, they made the worst possible judgment about him, a judgment that caused the brothers to sell him to the Egyptians!
This should shed some light onto all of us. In life, we tend to make quick judgments about people, whether they are righteous or not. We may hear lashon hara- gossip- spoken about other people, and be too quick to assume the worst. Moreover, our evil inclination is so excited to hear something negative about someone, reaffirming that we are better. Even if the rumors are true, that never gives us the right to judge.
No matter where we stand religiously, we must all take a stand to correct our behavior and not let the truth be distorted by our envious evil inclination.
What is the truth you may ask? The truth is that we are all created in the image of G-d. We all have a G-dly soul that desires to be good and do good. We must always take into consideration that a person behaves the way he does for a reason—he is a product of his environment and he is letting that be a determining factor of his behavior.
Next time, before you are quick to judge someone’s inappropriate behavior, etc., keep in mind that his G-dly soul wants better, he just has not developed that part of himself; however, he does in fact have a G-dly light that shines within him, he just needs the light to be turned on.
How can this light be turned on you ask? Be the one to ignite the spark! Instead of assuming the worst, try to be more empathetic For example, it’s early and you have not had your coffee yet, and the barista at the coffee shop is being rude to you, in your tired irritable mood, you immediately make a judgment about the him being a terrible person. Rather than assuming the worst, try to put yourself in that person’s shoes (as much as you possibly can) and realize, hey, it’s early and he is probably tired and irritable too.
You can also take a moment and think rationally before you let your evil inclination make irrational conclusions, ‘I have had a bad day before and acted even crazier, and I am not a terrible person (I hope you all hold yourselves in high esteem).’ Rather, you can ask the barista how he is doing (you will be surprised by how effective a small gesture of kindness will go). Yes, I know, this is a basic example, but once you adopt this mentality in as many situations as possible, your outlook on life will change, and you will be a spark that kindles souls. Your developed empathy will protrude onto others and you will truly make a difference in the lives of others, but most importantly in yourself. Developing your empathy is key for seeing a G-dly soul in all people.