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Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Judging one’s self”

A person’s private devils may torment him, but they are never as revolting or frightening to him as other people’s are.

This phenomenon is most evident when it comes to self-judgment.

Any judgment is based on (a) seeing facts properly, and (b) weighing the facts and arguments fairly and honestly.

Facts or claims, when seen from inside, are by definition distorted, incomplete, and not perceived in their full severity.

But the main weakness of self-judgment is in the judgment itself, namely, in the consideration of the different aspects of the case.

Even in cases where the law is clear and rigid, the role of the judge is to appraise the different aspects of a case and take into account not only the acts, but also, to a certain degree, their consequences.

In addition, a judge must consider the temptation or provocation that triggered a certain act.

Juxtaposing these things with each other is a major component of the art of judging.

But when judging one’s self, a person tends to understand, feel, and enhance the reasons that made him do what he did.

At the same time, one cannot possibly take the other side fully into account – due to lack of information, the inability to enter into another person’s heart and life, and the natural fact that one always feels less for others than for one’s self.

As a result, the primary inclination is to see the ameliorative aspects of the case, the things that made me do what I did.

Even when the facts and laws are crystal-clear, the tendency to be lenient persists.

In the words of our Sages (Shabbat 119a): “a person never condemns himself.”

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz