Trust and Acceptance
by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
There is a custom at this time of year, between Pesach and Rosh Hashanah, to study the teachings of Pirkei Avot - Ethics of the Fathers. These are moral and ethical lessons that motivate appropriate social conduct and the betterment of the human being.
One of the early passages states:
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Prachia says, "Make for yourself a mentor, acquire a friend and judge everyone favorably."
Why are these three concepts lumped together in one teaching? We can appreciate the connection between a mentor and a friend. They are both relationships that support the growth of the individual. But why is the lesson of judging people favorably taught in the same sentence?
Often we meet people who initially impress us, and based on this first impression we hold them in high regard. However, as we get to know them a little better, forming a closer relationship, we discover their deficits and the dark sides of their personality. At that point we are disappointed at how someone who presented so well could fail us in that way.
This is what Rabbi Yehoshua's lesson intends to avoid. For the development of any person it is essential to have spiritual mentors and good friends whom we can trust, confide in and share our lives with. But everyone has weaknesses and deficits that were initially hidden and carefully camouflaged. So as we succeed in forming these important relationships, we also have to learn the art of accepting people's faults and judging them favorably.
Learning to trust someone also means learning how to accept the whole person and see them in a positive way.