6 on a scale of 1 to 10?

judge everyone, how?

In Pirke Avot 1:6, R. Joshua ben Per­achi­ah says:

והוי דן את כל האדם לכף זכות

The phrase is var­i­ous­ly trans­lat­ed as:

It is hard not to judge peo­ple. We do it all the time. Some­times we make inno­cent, snap, judge­ments about the peo­ple we see as we walk around town: will that per­son walk­ing in front of us move at the same pace, or per­haps sidle a bit to the right or left; is there space for me to move around him/her? At oth­er times we often eval­u­ate peo­ple we encounter, behind the cash reg­is­ter, or serv­ing us our meal in a restau­rant, based on aspects of their appear­ance: their dress, their hair­do; we “pre-judge” them using stereo­types and prej­u­dices. These judge­ments may often be unfair and erro­neous, but they help us get through the day.

the mazel of sanhedrin

I have recent­ly become a fan of the nov­el­ist and phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor Rebec­ca Gold­stein. I learned of her when her first nov­el “The Mind Body Prob­lem was pub­lished in 1983. For some odd rea­son, the nov­el did not grab me at the time. More recent­ly I devoured her anti-biog­ra­phy Betray­ing Spin­oza and decid­ed to return to her fic­tion. After enjoy­ing her recent nov­el 36 Argu­ments for the Exis­tence of God I found her 1995 nov­el Mazel. (Aren’t libraries won­der­ful?!) There, on page 166, she has the fol­low­ing bit of text:

The puz­zling pas­sage occurs in the book of San­hedrin. Each per­son, says the text, has been cre­at­ed absolute­ly unique as regards his appear­ance, his voice, and his mind. There­fore, each per­son should believe that the world was cre­at­ed pre­cise­ly for him.

A baf­fling pas­sage, no? Nachum was to believe that the world was cre­at­ed for him?

But now, he saw: the Mas­ter of the Uni­verse has cre­at­ed for each per­son a world that he alone inhab­its.

What is this one’s world like, and what is it like for that one?

What is your world like? How does it dif­fer from the world I expe­ri­ence? Your world leads you to your feel­ings, thoughts and actions, as my world leads me to mine. I do what I can to under­stand your world, as I hope you attempt to appre­ci­ate mine. But we often, because of our many lim­i­ta­tions, fall short and end up deal­ing with mis­un­der­stand­ings.

god’s prayer

My col­league Jack Bloom sug­gests that we approach one anoth­er using the prayer attrib­uted to God in B’ra­chot 7a

May it be My (our) will that my com­pas­sion over­come my (our) anger and may my (our) mer­cy pre­vail over my (our) attrib­ut­es [of jus­tice and judg­ment].
May I deal with my (our) chil­dren in accor­dance with My (our) attribute of com­pas­sion.
May I act towards them beyond the let­ter of the law.

and what about ourselves?

We often mis­un­der­stand our­selves, imag­in­ing we are some­one who we are not. We set up expec­ta­tions that are unre­al­is­tic or berate our­selves for things over which we may have no con­trol.

Some­time in the ear­ly ’90s I came upon the fol­low­ing text. I do not know how or where I found it. When I did, it seemed to be anony­mous (it was at least with­out attri­bu­tion). I tried to find the source, but, with­out the WWW and its search tools, I came up emp­ty hand­ed. Not find­ing the author, I even mod­i­fied the text ever so slight­ly. I even post­ed the vari­ant I had on my Web 1.0 site with a request that, if some­one knew who wrote it, they should noti­fy me. Since then, search­ing again, I think I have found the author. It appears to be Stephen Levine. I write “appears to be” because while “A For­give­ness Med­i­ta­tion” has that name asso­ci­at­ed with it, I can­not find a direct link from one to the oth­er.

As I have added to the Web 1.0 site:
For many years I have indi­cat­ed this as:
“ ‘Source unknown’ If you know who wrote this, please let me know.“
In March of 2013 some­one wrote to me to inform me that it is from
Who Dies?: An Inves­ti­ga­tion of Con­scious Liv­ing and Con­scious Dying” by Stephen Levine and Ondrea Levine; pages 81ff.
I trea­sure it and thank them for the work.

I read this text on the eve of Kol Nidre every year at my tiny con­gre­ga­tion. I asked those gath­ered to close their eyes as I read:

Reflect for a moment on that qual­i­ty we call for­give­ness.

Bring into your mind, actu­al­ly into your heart, the image of some­one you know for whom you have much resent­ment.

Take a moment to feel that per­son right there at the cen­ter of your chest in the heart’s cen­ter. And in your heart say to that per­son:

I for­give you for any­thing you may have done in the past, either inten­tion­al­ly or unin­ten­tion­al­ly, through your thoughts, words, or actions that caused me pain. I for­give you.

Slow­ly allow that per­son to set­tle into your heart.

Don’t judge your­self for how dif­fi­cult it is.

No force, just open­ing slow­ly to them at your own pace…. Say to them:

I for­give you. I for­give you for the pain you caused me in the past, inten­tion­al­ly or unin­ten­tion­al­ly, by your thoughts your deeds, your words. I for­give you.

Gen­tly, gen­tly open to them. If it hurts, let it hurt. Grad­u­al­ly open to that per­son. Open to that resent­ment, that incred­i­ble anger, even if it burns, ever so gen­tly though. For­give­ness.

I for­give you.

Let your heart open to them.

It is so painful to hold some­one out of your heart.

I for­give you.

Let your heart open just a bit more to them. Just a moment of open­ing, of for­give­ness, let­ting go of resent­ment.

Allow them to be for­giv­en.

Now open­ing more to for­give­ness, bring into your heart the image of some­one from whom you wish to ask for­give­ness.

Speak to them in your heart:

I ask your for­give­ness for any­thing I may have done in the past that caused you pain, either by my thoughts or my actions or my words. Even for those things I didn’t intend to cause you pain, I ask your for­give­ness.

For all those words that were said out of for­get­ful­ness or fear. Out of my closed-ness, out of my con­fu­sion. I ask your for­give­ness.

Don’t allow any resent­ment you hold for your­self block your recep­tion of that for­give­ness. Let your heart soft­en to it. Allow your­self to be for­giv­en.

Let your­self be freed.

Let any unwor­thi­ness come up, any anger at your­self… let it all fall away. Let it all go.

Open to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of for­give­ness

I ask your for­give­ness for what­ev­er I may have done in the past that caused you pain. By the way I act­ed or spoke or thought, I ask your for­give­ness.”

It is so painful to hold your­self out of your heart.

Bring your­self into your heart. Say I for­give you,” to your­self. Don’t reject your­self.

Using your own first name, in your heart say,

I for­give you […].

Open to that. Let it be. Make room in your heart for your­self.

I for­give you.

All those resent­ments, let them fall away.

Open to the self-for­give­ness. Let your­self have some space.

Let go of that bit­ter­ness, that hard­ness, that judg­ment of your self. Say:

I for­give you

to you.

Let some glim­mer­ing of lov­ing-kind­ness be direct­ed toward your­self. Allow your heart to open to you. Let that light, that care for your­self, grow.


Watch how thoughts of unwor­thi­ness and fears of being self-indul­gent try to block the pos­si­bil­i­ty of once and for all let­ting go of that hard­en­ing.

See the free­dom in self-for­give­ness. How can you hold to that pain even a moment longer?

Feel that place of love and enter into it.

Allow your­self the com­pas­sion, the care, of self-for­give­ness. Let your­self float gen­tly in the open heart of under­stand­ing, of for­give­ness, and peace.

Feel how hard it is for us to love our­selves. Feel the pain in the hearts of all those caught in con­fu­sion. For­give them. For­give your­self. Let go gen­tly of the pain that hides the immen­si­ty of your love.

how hard?

and then i would sing

Not as beau­ti­ful­ly as Joan does here. (The pho­to is of Joan with her (then) 94 year old moth­er.) The poem “Be Not Too Hard” was writ­ten by the British poet Christo­pher Logue and put to music by folk-rock singer, Dono­van (Leitch).

may we treat one another as sisters and brothers



I cur­rent­ly wear this but­ton. The Hebrew word אַחֲוָה means “sib­ling­hood”. I hope if I am able to look on every­one as if they were my own sis­ter or broth­er… whom I love dear­ly, I will judge them on the scale tipped toward the mer­it they deserve.

Date: 1930s or 1940s
Size: 1.9
Pin Form: straight
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
Text אַחֲוָה

your lapel buttons

Many peo­ple have lapel but­tons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jack­et you no longer wear, or poked into a cork-board on your wall. If you have any lay­ing around that you do not feel emo­tion­al­ly attached to, please let me know. I pre­serve these for the Jew­ish peo­ple. At some point they will all go to an appro­pri­ate muse­um. You can see all the but­tons shared to date.

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