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Please Be Judgemental

by Rabbi Matt August 25, 2010

As you prepare for the High Holy Days, please be judgmental! The word judgmental has been given a bad rap and only in my middle-age can I put it into perspective. Too often, if people disagree with your judgment, they call you judgmental and that somehow makes you seem unlettered or closed minded. But understand this...Judaism wants each of us to be judgmental.

Judgment (n.) is defined as the act of judging, or the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively and wisely, especially in matters affecting action, good sense and discretion. Judgmental is the adjective.

I want my children and students to be judgmental in the real definition of the word. If someone is drinking alcohol and gets behind the wheel of the car, I hope our children will be judgmental enough NOT to get into that car and instead secure another ride.

Do you know someone who almost always leaves you without the help you need? She talks a good game, but rarely follows through. Well, maybe she is unreliable. Maybe she is even selfish and self-centered. Maybe she is someone from whom you should keep a distance? As you reason through the data, you are making a judgment. You are taking action based upon the information you have before you. You are making a decision based upon good sense and discretion. You are being judgmental in the real sense of the word. Jumping to conclusions is a different matter. Jumping to conclusions is being judgmental without a preponderance of data. It is making a judgment just because the guy has tattoos...or does not speak English very well...belongs to another religion...did not go to college...or appears to have different priorities in life.

What does this mean as we approach the new year? Our tradition calls upon us to pray with sincerity, engage in repentance and give tzedakah. Just as a shepherd counts his flock, so does God look for us and count us. God makes an accounting of our deeds. God makes careful judgments about our lives. And so should we.

Do not fall into the pop culture trap of NOT making judgments about anyone or anything. Make judgments, just be careful and deliberate, considerate and understanding.

And you know what else? When we make judgments, we can easily be talking about judging to the good. Being judgmental is not always a negative judgment. This New Year make judgments and do your best to make them to the good. Go ahead, be judgmental.

Pat joins me in sending prayers for health, happiness, prosperity and blessing in 5771.

Kol tuv (all the best) and l’shanah tovah,

Rabbi Matt E.

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