Midot Hayom 30: Gevurah in Hod
“ Judge everyone favorably.” A young girl was taken captive, and two pious men tried to ransom her. One of them entered a house of prostitution to negotiate her “purchase”. When he came out he asked his partner: “What did you think of me?” “I thought you went in to find out how much money they were demanding for her release,” the other replied. “I swear, that’s exactly what happened,” the first responded, adding, “Just as you judged me favorably, so may the Holy One, Blessed is He, judge you favorably.” Avot of Rabbi Nathan 8:7)
Why would God need to judge someone favorably? Doesn’t God know exactly what the person did? The two men were working together to ransom the girl. The one knew that the other entered the brothel to negotiate the girl’s release. Why was his statement that, “I thought you went in to find out how much money they were demanding for her release,” considered a favorable judgment?
Although the man who remained outside knew the purpose of the other’s entrance into the house of prostitution, there was always a possibility that his partner would be distracted during his visit. The favorable judgment was that the latter man did not think about anything that might have gone on in the other’s mind. He simply considered the mission and did not even think of any inappropriate thoughts that may have entered his partner’s mind during the visit. He judged that the man remained focused even while in such an unholy place.
The latter made his judgment based his judgment on his perception of his partner’s better instincts. When God judges us, we ask that He not consider the distractions in our minds, inappropriate intentions, or lack of consistency, only how our actions reflect our inner goodness and beauty.