וכי יהיה ריב בין אנשים ונגשו אל המשפט ושפטום והצדיקו את הצדיק והרשיעו את הרשע
“And if there will be contention between people and they will be brought before judgment, they shall be judged, and the righteous should be justified and the guilty should be condemned.” (Devarim 25:1)
Why does the Torah have to tell us that the righteous should be justified and the guilty should be condemned? Isn’t this self understood? After all, this is the purpose of judgment.
The Mishna tells us, “Judge each person favorably.” (Avos 1:6) How can we judge a person favorably if we’ve seen him commit a wrongdoing?
The key to judging others favorably is to put ourselves in their place. When a person does something wrong, he has an endless supply of excuses to defend his actions. Therefore, if you see someone else commit a wrongdoing, try to think how you would defend this deed if you would have done it in error, or in a moment of weakness.
Every Jew has two forces in his heart - the yetzer tov and the yetzer hara. The yetzer tov pulls us towards holiness and spirituality, which is what all of us really want. Unfortunately, we are sometimes led astray by the yetzer hara. However, following the yetzer hara is never our true intention. Every Jewish soul strives for closeness with Hashem; every Jewish soul is a truetzaddik, supremely righteous. When a Jew commits a wrongdoing and we blame him entirely, we are condemning a tzaddik, because his soul is essentially pure.
This is the meaning of the verse: “If there will be contention between people.” This refers to the constant state of contention between the yetzer tov and the yetzer hara. When it comes to judging another person, always remember that “the righteous should be justified and the guilty should be condemned.” The neshama is a tzaddik; don’t condemn the person’s complete essence! Condemn the evil yetzer hara who led him astray, but remember that deep inside he is still essentially pure.
If we will judge others favorably, we will merit being judged favorably by Hashem during the upcoming Days of Judgment, and He will inscribe us in the Book of Life.