Thursday, September 18, 2008

143 - Shoftim

Rashi explains the commandment, "Do not show favoritism" (Devarim 16, 19), as a warning to a judge not to act harshly with one litigant and kindly towards the other: "He should not make one [litigant] stand while the other sits, because when one sees the judge honoring his opponent, he becomes disoriented." How is it, asks Rav Wolbe (Alei Shur vol. I pg. 191), that a litigant who was well prepared when he stepped into court, completely loses track of all his claims? He answers that this comes as a result of the hester panim of the judge. Being the recipient of hester panim clouds one's thoughts and weakens his mental defenses.

Every person desires to feel that others take interest in him. Additionally, every person has the ability to display he'aras panim (a glowing countenance) thereby giving others what they so much desire. However, often we are witness to incidents where two people live side by side but without any understanding of one another. They might reside in close physical proximity, but their relationship remains distant and, sometimes, even bitter and full of resentment.

If we were to try to uncover the underlying reason for these feelings, we might discover that the problem lies in that each person is waiting for the other to initiate the relationship. A teacher might be waiting for the student to come forward with his questions and concerns, while the student is waiting for the teacher to reach out to him. This is true with regard to any relationship between two people. Each one thinks there is something causing the other to refrain from nurturing the relationship; the days go by and the chasm between them widens. In truth, all that is lacking is the realization that it is incumbent on each and every person to display he'aras panim, and not ignore the people around him.

How great are our Sages whom encapsulated this idea in a mere few words: "You should [be the one to] initiate a greeting to every person" (Avos 4, 16). One who answers his friend's greeting has acted out of derech eretz, while one who initiates the greeting has brightened another's day. A few well placed words contain an awesome power. Even a mere smile has the ability to light up another's day. Watch a baby who is sensitive to the looks on the faces of people he encounters. When a baby encounters a person who is smiling his face lights up and he gurgles excitedly, however, encountering a frown would immediately cause him to cry. Who knows what is more important for the proper development of a child – the nourishment in the form of food or the nourishment given through the he'aras panim shown to him? One thing is certain: a child that grows up without any he'aras panim is like a plant that grows without any sunlight. There is no possibility that he will be emotionally healthy.

Smile at your neighbor, friend, spouse or colleague. You might very well affect his day in a way you never would have believed. It will also give him the impetus to smile at the next one, causing a chain reaction that will make the world a better place.

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