• Dev Friedlander

Relinquishing the Gavel

Lately, repentance is a theme of many of the videos which are appearing in my YouTube subscription list. Between now and the end of Yom Kippur, repentance plays a more prominent part of Jewish thought and prayer. The idea is to pick an area of one’s life that they find they are lacking in, and to do whatever they can to improve. This year I’m working on putting down the gavel.


I find I am much better at spotting the weaknesses of others than seeing them in myself. My judgmental nature became more clear the day I almost lambasted a YouTuber online, who I vehemently disagreed with. I was ready to execute judgment from my bench in the court of public opinion.


Repentance is a theme of many of the videos which are appearing in my YouTube subscriptions recently. Between now and the end of Yom Kippur, repentance plays a more prominent part of Jewish thought and prayer. The idea is to pick an area in one’s life that they find lacking and do whatever they can to improve. This year I’m working on putting down the gavel.


While scrolling through videos about repentance, looking for inspiration for the approaching High Holidays, I came across one titled, “Can Humans Help but Sin?” My interest was piqued, so I clicked on play.


Three seconds in, I realized that this speaker had a mission to make as many people as outraged as possible. He intentionally provoked, preached, and spewed rhetoric that was far from inspirational. I clicked on the comment’s section, ready to make this man feel small. I was all too happy to bang my gavel and declare him, “canceled.” And if I had personally sent this man a letter trying to have a civilized dialogue there could be some justification. However, I had no plans for civility, just mockery. To build my case further, I decided to listen to another one of this man’s talks.


He spewed the same anger and condemnation as the first video I have listened to. Yet, I heard something else this time around, fear. This man had been taught to see the Creator as a vengeful, scary being who was happy to smite him down the moment he slipped in his service. Shame filled me as I recalled a time when I once held those same beliefs. Understanding where he was coming from better now, I felt sympathetic towards him and understood that although I disagreed with everything he said, I could see that he thought that he was trying to help others. I deleted my comment, happy I hadn’t pressed “post.” I also learned something new, that I was too quick in my judgment of this man’s character.


So, from that day, I decided to try and pause before forming a judgment. Already I have had wonderful results. Instead of getting offended by a writer who didn’t return my email, I sent a follow-up. I found out my request accidentally went into the spam folder, and they were grateful I had reached out. Instead of becoming mad at a friend who didn’t return one of my favorite serving dishes, I called them to ask if I could come to pick it up. My friend ended up returning the dish with a treat inside. The best though happened with my youngest daughter.


One night I asked her to stop drawing and to go brush her teeth. I asked her once, she continued to draw, I asked her twice, she continued to draw. Then, instead of yelling and screaming I took a deep breath and placed a hand on her shoulder. Noticing me, she took earbuds out of her ears and said sweetly, “yes mommy?”


I let out a breath, grateful that I had paused. I had not noticed she was wearing the earbuds the whole time. My daughter is hard of hearing, so the earbuds made it impossible for her to have heard me. I said again calmly, “can you please brush your teeth?”


“I brushed my teeth earlier,” she replied, then she handed me a picture of a big heart. I checked her toothbrush and gave a sigh; glad I had decided to pause in my judgment earlier.


Judging favorably doesn’t mean looking the other way when someone does something wrong. It simply means to pause and ask, have I read this situation correctly? A shocking number of times, I have found myself answering, no.


I do hope this speaker finds peace and purpose, so he no longer feels the need to bellow at his audience. And maybe I will find a way to contact him privately and have a productive conversation. I’m grateful that I didn’t start a campaign of hate and even more so, that I have finally learned to put down the gavel.

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