April 5, 2022 by Lazer Brody
The commandment of “Love your neighbor like you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) means disposing of the double standard. We do just that when we judge others by the same exact standard that we judge ourselves. Since we love ourselves, we have a long list of mitigating circumstances to justify everything we do wrong in life. But when someone else makes the same exact mistake, we’re quick to judge and condemn. So many of us have an itchy trigger finger that’s all too ready to put a bullet between the other person’s eyes. That’s not fair! We don’t do that to ourselves! When it comes to looking within, we’re ever so patient and understanding, always finding excuses for ourselves no matter how far-fetched they might be. But, whenever we measure our fellow human’s steps with a different yardstick than we judge our own, we are delinquent in fulfilling the commandment of loving our neighbor.
We therefore see that the double standard is a serious violation of several Torah commandments, as follows:
1. It’s a failure to love our fellow human as we love ourselves.
2. The double standard violates the obligation of judging other people fairly. Fair judgment means giving them the benefit of the doubt as we always give ourselves.
3. It violates the commandment of emulating the Creator; as He is kind, compassionate and merciful in judgment, so must we be.
Double standards destroy relationships, whether in marriage, career, parenting or any other interpersonal setting. Let’s see a few examples:
Jon arrived home thirty means late from work. His wife Marilyn was fuming. “Why are you so selfish and inconsiderate? Didn’t you know that I need your help? Can’t you find a better time to chat with your colleagues?”
Only a week ago, Marilyn came home an hour late, causing Jon to miss an important lecture he wanted to attend. But Marilyn blamed the traffic jam, the long line at the checkout counter of the supermarket and the slow service at the gas station, when in truth she had spent considerable time chatting with a girlfriend she met. Does it ever occur to her that Jon might have been in a similar rush-hour bottleneck on the beltway? Maybe Jon had to refuel his car too.
When she’s late, that’s fine; but when he’s late, he gets labeled “selfish and inconsiderate”. It’s only a matter of time until the double standard totally devastates their marriage.
8-year old Joey wasn’t paying attention at the table and spilled a glass of milk. Stuart, his father, roared at him, embarrassing him in front of the whole family, calling him a careless baby. “Should we make you wear a bib and sit in a high-chair too?” chided Stuart relentlessly, not realizing that every word of verbal abuse was like stabbing his son in the heart.
Yet, only a week before, Stuart drank a little too much at the Shabbat table, spilling a glass of wine with the glass breaking into smithereens all over the dining room floor. There was no talk about carelessness, baby or high-chair. Instead, Stuart blamed the glass for being so top-heavy and unsteady. A few years down the road, Stuart will shrug his shoulders, not understanding why adolescent Joey doesn’t respect him or listen to a word he says.
Silver and Cohen each own real estate agencies and they belong to the same synagogue. The real estate market is tight in their city, so they haven’t earned as much as they did in the early 2000’s, twenty years ago. Silver begrudgingly donated $500 to the synagogue building fund, and considered this a laudable act of total dedication on his part. But when he found out that Cohen, who in fact earns no more than he does, donated four times as much, he said, “That cheapskate can afford it – with his money, he could have afforded to give much more!”
Silver calls his stinginess “total dedication” while labeling his colleague’s generosity as stinginess. This is the double standard that is the result of arrogance, lack of character refinement and utter disregard and/or ignorance of the Torah’s commands between man and fellow man.
If we have two yardsticks, one for ourselves and one for everyone else, let’s throw one of them away and use the same one – the one of lenience and understanding – for others as well as for ourselves.
Seeing others in a positive light is a prerequisite for being able to “love your neighbor as yourself.” How then, do we start to love others and see them positively? We start by excusing their shortcomings the same way we excuse ourselves. That way, we not only refine our own character but we make the world a better place.
We’re in the midst of cleaning our physical domains from chametz (leavened flour and its derivatives, a broad term for things not kosher for Passover). Let’s not forget to purify our hearts of the spiritual chametz, like all double standards. Worse than chametz, which is forbidden only on Passover, double standards are forbidden all year long.