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Are you bias?

Friday, 10 July, 2015 - 10:00 am

Have you ever seen a situation where the reality of what happened can be interpreted in two ways?  Have you ever attributed negative intentions to an act when it may have been done with the best intentions?

Many a time, it is our perception that changes when the facts remain the same. We all have preconceived notions based on life experiences which cause us to judge before we know all the facts. One person tells me that when he sees an observant Jew making too sharp of a turn or not being able to parallel park, he calls it DWO (driving while orthodox). The fact is that some people drive better than others; the driver being observant has nothing to do with his skill at operating a motor vehicle.

We see in the commentaries different intentions attributed to Moses as to why he deferred to G-d when questioned by Tzelofchad’s daughters . The reasons range from his extreme humility to G-d showing him that there are some answers that he would need G-d’s overt help.

Pinchas, in the beginning of this week’s parsha, is also challenged whether his moral war on Zimri  was an expression of morality or his predisposition to ruthlessness.

The Torah tells us that Pinchas had pure intentions. It got me thinking. When we see someone doing something and it can be interpreted in two ways, let us assume that they had the best of intentions and stop being bias; less prejudgment will make the world a better place.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. a story as an example

One day, a father told his seven-year-old son to take a coin from the desk and buy himself some candy at the grocery store. A few hours later, when the father went to take something from the desk, he noticed to his chagrin that the gold Napoleon was missing. After questioning his son, it became apparent that the child had taken the wrong coin. Instead of taking a simple metal chirale (a cheap metal coin), he took the Napoleon.

Now the father was in a rage. How could the grocer have taken such advantage of his son? The boy claimed that he gave a coin for the candy and received no change. This was highway robbery! Yet, the father - being a distinguished person - felt he could not go to the grocer and accuse him of taking advantage of his little son. This did not prevent the mother from going to the store and heaping accusations and scorn on the grocer, who vehemently denied receiving anything more than a chirale from the boy.

What really happened?  Three years after the tragic ending to the episode, in which the grocer’s reputation was tarnished.  The father received an anonymous letter from a young man who felt he had to finally confess to a terrible misdeed that he had committed three years previously. He had been overwhelmed with debt, with no visible means of supporting his starving family or paying off his debt. He saw a young boy playing with a gold Napoleon. Imagine, a coin that could pay off his debts and feed his family! He would "borrow" it from the child and pay it back one day. He did just that by convincing the child to exchange his Napoleon for a chirale - and the rest is history. Heartbroken and begging forgiveness for any problems it "may have caused," he was now repenting and returning the Napoleon.

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