The Company It Keeps, Part II

Ayin Tove
The Company It Keeps, Part II
June 3, 2010

The sixth mishnah in Avot (Make yourself a rabbi (“rav”), create/acquire for yourself friends, and give each person the benefit of the doubt when you judge (lit. let your judgment of each man be for the side of merit)) can be read so that the first clause is given meaning by the second, which is given meaning by the last. “Rav” can be rabbi but also great. So it may be saying, find a spiritual guide, but it may also be saying make yourself great. How? By making a lot of friendships. How? By thinking the best of other people, by giving them the benefit of the doubt, by interpreting their words/actions as being well-intentioned (or benign) rather than ill-intentioned (or malignant). And it says literally make yourself great, which means, in addition to treating other people well (which comes from judging them favorably), judge yourself favorably and treat yourself well.

Ayin Tove is an attorney for the government and is a contributing writer for Gather The Jews.