Dear Dr. Yael,
My husband and I enjoy your column and read it every Friday night.
I wanted to share an idea about the parsha that ties into psychology. This past week’s parsha was Parshas Shoftim. Shoftim means judges. Moshe commanded Bnei Yisrael to appoint judges to decide the law. This is part of making sure that we live in a just society. The pasuk says, tzedek tzedek tirdof. Justice, justice shall you pursue. The Torah doesn’t have one extraneous word, so why is tzedek mentioned twice? Tzedek embodies the double qualities of righteousness and mercy.
Without them our society would be neither just nor holy. The Declaration of Independence grants people the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. The Torah, on the other hand, envisions a holy nation pursuing justice. Justice itself requires wisdom. But a double justice requires holiness.
Christopher Peterson, one of the founding fathers of positive psychology used to say: “other people matter.” When you step out of the zone of your undeniable rights, you will be a lot happier. The fact is, we are responsible for each other.
An Avid Reader
Dear Avid Reader,
Often in this space we discuss the ways in which we treat each other.
We may say that other people matter, yet, consciously or subconsciously we think of ourselves first – and make ourselves a priority, pushing other people’s feelings to the side. Although we know we should consider other people’s feelings, when it conflicts with our own basic and sometimes selfish needs, it can be difficult.
Every person has basic needs that must be met, so that we can be more caring and selfless to others. However, when those basic need are not met, well…
Thus, a person who is physically and emotionally healthy and is in a loving family situation with stable finances, will probably have an easier time being more giving and thoughtful to others. However, if a person is physically or emotionally limited without secure family ties and stable financial backing, he or she will probably be more selfish.
Why do people get stuck thinking about themselves? We work hard just to pay tuition, taxes, the mortgage, Shabbos and Yom Tov expenses, etc. Raising a family today is expensive and challenging. In addition, there are a great many health issues, a dramatic rise in divorce, a great deal of older singles, and children who are struggling with yiddishkeit.
Members of the sandwich generation who were raised by survivors are unfortunately raising a “me” generation whose members are struggling with technology and gadgets. All this noise makes it hard to focus on other people and doing what is right and just.
I once heard a beautiful thought related to this. As a generation, we have surmounted most previous generations when it comes to chesed. So, a legitimate question we can ask is, why hasn’t Moshiach come yet if we have learned to love each other and do an enormous amount of chesed?
If you look around at all of the chesed being done, it is mostly in response to various tragedies; when there is a need, Klal Yisroel is there for you. However, when all is well, we are often jealous of one another and speaking lashon hara about each other. We mostly come together through tragedy.
If we, as a klal, can figure out how to be good to each other when there are no tragedies and when no one is in need, that is when Moshiach will come. That will be true ahavas Yisroel.
We appreciate your thoughts and your letter and hope it will influence people to think of how they are treating each other.