The Beis HaLevi, Rov of Brisk had an interesting custom. While receiving his townspeople in his study and offering them his sage advice and counsel, he would regularly open a small silver snuff box, peer inside, and then close it.
This behaviour mode continued for many years and the townspeople were curious, what was their beloved Rov looking inside his snuff box – as he never used any snuff at all?
One man in the city could no longer contain his curiosity and one day, he peered inside the box. But what he saw made him even more perturbed. There were six Alef Beis letter neatly inscribed, and they weren’t the initials of the Rov!
The letters were Shin Peh Vov Shin Mem Nun.
The curious man begged the Beis HaLevi for an explanation – and Reb Yoshe Ber smiled. Those letters are acronyms for the six famous words in Tehillim : Shoimer Piv Ulshono, Shomer Mitzoras Nafsho!
A constant reminder to guard ones mouth!
The Ba’al Shem Tov makes this point from the Mishna in Ovos Perek Alef – where we are instructed to judge our friends favourably.
The Besht explains that we tend to see faults in others – however, it is HKBH’s way of showing us our very own failings.
HKBH wants to see how we would judge others, our own verdict, the judgement that we passed onto others; and then HKBH uses that very ruling for ourselves. We are our own judges.
As we tearfully recite on the Yomim Noraim, in the moving Tefilla of Unesane Tokef : “Vechoisom yad Kol Odom bo” – we have signed our own decree.
Isn’t it thus admirable to do as the Mishna teaches us, to judge others favourably? We are then the winners!
Perhaps it is even deeper…
HKBH deliberately allows us to see the failings in others – in order for us to pass judgement – on ourselves!
In Mishlei Perek Daled, Shlomo Hamelech declares: “einecho lenochach yabitu, afapecho yaishiru negdecho”. The author of the Nesivos Hamishpot, Reb Yaakov of Lisa explains that although ones eyes tend to face others, we should contemplate deeply within ourselves that scene that we have witnessed as it is a personal and direct message from Above.
In fact, on Chol Hamoed, Reb Isser Zalman Meltzer zatza’l insisted on writing this Possuk before members of his Kehilla came to greet him; and he told his Talmid, that seeing this Possuk in front of him, when his congregants would be there – was Pikuach Nefesh, it would save his life from thinking the worst about others!
This message resonates deeper, when we realise that after WW2, the Tzadik Reb Aharon of Belz settled in Tel Aviv and witnessed many occasions of Chilul Shabbos.
Yet, his reaction was astounding. Every time he saw a vehicle driving on Shabbos – he would joyfully exclaim that there must be another woman going into Hospital to have a child!
To a Tzadik it was inconceivable to consider the possibility of Chillul Shabbos – as that was an option far removed from him!
It didn’t exist in his mindset, he was so far removed from Chillul Shabbos – that he never saw any actions as the desecration of our Holy day!
This behoves us to rethink our own thoughts and actions when we see others behaving in a questionable manner.
If we are Shomer Piv Ulsho