Thursday, May 20, 2021

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checkLawrence, May 20 - A spiritual leader used his sermon this week to stress the Jewish value of always giving someone the benefit of the doubt in the face of awkward or compromising reports, specifically if that someone has cut a generous check to said spiritual leader, the institutions run by that spiritual leader, or to interests of his family and friends.

Rabbi Tzvi Ut of Congregation Rodef Shalmonim exhorted his flock this past Sabbath to fulfill the divine commandment of "With righteousness shall you judge your fellow," a passage from Deuteronomy that generations of Jewish scholars have interpreted to apply far beyond the verse's immediate context of jurisprudence. Rabbi Ut stressed that the obligation to judge another favorably pertains especially to those who have done so much for the community by contributing funds or goods to the Ut household and to institutions under the aegis of Ut relatives and associates.

"When disturbing reports emerge about pillars of our community," stated the Rabbi, "our first obligation, even in the era of the Me Too movement, is not to prejudge, but to grant the presumption of innocence, because people who donate generously to the Rabbi thereby become worthy of our support. This also holds true for donors to the various educational funds my sons, brothers, Sisters, brothers-in-law, and several nephews administer, of course."

The Rabbi observed the ancient underpinnings of this important teaching. "Indulgences are not a Jewish tradition," he acknowledged, "but the Catholics were onto something. In Avot we are admonished to judge all people favorably, but a close reading of the text of that Mishna bears out not only the understanding of 'all people,' but also 'all of the person,' and as we all know from the conversations that take place during services at our synagogue, about the stock market, cars, renovations, and other business, 'all of the person' in our eyes comes down to his money and how he disburses it."

Congregants gave a mixed response to the sermon. "Well, I didn't fall asleep halfway through, which I guess is something," conceded Jeff Epstein. "I liked the Rabbi's choice of words when he said we must 'suspend' judgment. That imagery of hanging resonated for some reason."

"He should have been even more forceful about it, I think," argued Harv Weinstein. "Actually I might have to write a check or two if I want that to happen, come to think of it."

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