Just an ounce!
As we’re approaching the Nine Days it feels an appropriate time to discuss Rebbe Nachman’s famous lesson entitled אזמרה.
The Rebbe teaches that we need to judge everyone favorably. And even if someone is totally corrupt, we should seek to find the little measure of good in him. (It can’t be, says the Rebbe, that he has no good qualities at all, ([for even Esau honored his father greatly]). And when we find that small measure of good in this foul person, we can recognize his kindness and literally bring him back to God. And as Reb Nosson adds later in the piece, the Rebbe cautioned his Chassidim to live with this lesson. Search and hunt for the good points in others and bring everyone back to God.
I’m embarrassed to admit it but personally I struggle with this lesson. Being a competitive person I naturally want to be better than everyone. Instead of suffering from jealousy I prefer to find other people’s faults so I don’t have to worry that they’re ‘better than me’. This makes it very difficult for me to see the good points in others.
But there’s more to the lesson! The Rebbe continues: Not only do we need to look for the good points in others, we need to seek out and find the good points in ourselves too. At first when I learned this lesson I thought “That’s not my problem! If anything I delude myself to only see my good points”. But after meditating on it some more I realize that I’m not being honest enough with myself. If I’m not able to see enough good in others, it’s because I don’t see the good in myself either. If I appreciated myself more, I would have no problem allowing others to succeed as well. It’s mostly because of my own insecurities that I’m competitive and critical of others.
On the verse “Don’t insult the convert, because you were also converts in Egypt”, the Talmud teaches (ב״מ נ״ט): “If you have a flaw, don’t point it out in another”. The Baal Shem Tov notes beautifully, “When you see imperfections in others, it’s because you have those same flaws in yourself. Hashem is showing it to you in others, like a mirror, so you can fix it in yourself”.
We all know that the Second Temple was destroyed because of the Jews’ unwarranted hatred of one another. And if the Temple is not rebuilt in our generation it’s because we’re still hating each other unjustifiably. Maybe this is what Rebbe Nachman meant when he said that his fire will burn until Mashiach comes? He meant that his primary lesson will be the one that brings Mashiach. If we can put down our gloves and find the good points in ourselves and in our friends, then we will stop the slandering, strife, defamation and internal animosity that we’re suffering from.
It’s not easy to do these days with our insecurities but the Rebbe encouraged the Chassidim greatly to search and seek for just an ounce of good. That’s all we need to start. Just an ounce!