How Can We Eliminate The Pain of Being Judged?

One of the reasons non Observant people give for not finding out more about Judaism is that they feel judged.

How are we to understand the pain of being judged when we enter into a relationship with a non Observant Jew?

Is it because at some level we may feel superior because we are observing G-d’s will to a greater degree, and therefore make the other person feel inferior?

Is it because the mere fact that we are observant, makes the person judge themselves as to their own non-observance?

Is it because the teacher-student relationship is inevitably one sided and in regards to Judaism we automatically assume the teacher role, making the unsolicited student feel uncomfortable?

Is it because we believe that G-d judges observant people better through his granting of a better world-to-come for the observant and therefore we feel justified in following what we understand to be G-d’s judgment?

What do you think?
Why do non-frum people feel judged and more importantly, what positive steps can we make to reduce the pain of being judged?

23 comments on “How Can We Eliminate The Pain of Being Judged?

  1. With all due respect, michal, many of us do. it’s an unfortunate thing that people whose primary exposure to frum jews often think that chabad had the monoploy on this. the baal hatanya’s words are rooted in writings that came way before him, too.chabad’s current contemporary emphasis on learning only chabad literature shortchanges people into thinking that chabad initiated this, or even that we don’t all believe these yesodos of judaism.

  2. In order for frum Jews to stop being judgemental towards non-frum Jews, I would suggest that we should learn perek 32 in Tanya. This perek is the reason for Chabad’s success with kiruv. In this perek the Baal HaTanya states that we are all one neshama that comes from the same Source. So, if we come from the same Source, how can we claim that our souls are superior to our fellow non-frum Jews? If we internalize this, we can realize true achdus with all Jews no matter their level of observance.

    In the Hamodia, an article was written about Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his love for all jews. A man who became observant because of the Rabbi’s ahavas yisroel was interviewed by the author. He said that all the times he stayed at the Chabad House in Mumbai, the rabbi never brought up Judaism with him. This man learned about yiddishkeit just by watching the pure actions of Rabbi Holtzberg and his amazing mesirus nefesh.

    Rabbi Holtzberg was successful because he saw each Jew as a precious diamond, and that is how we should look at each Jew.

  3. “the Orthodox community does not go out of their way to welcome anybody except other frum people”

    As poignant as your experience is, Tevya, this statement is far from valid. Perhaps it would be more accurate to focus on your locale. Or, conversely, get out a bit and discover the incredible world of Orthodox Jewish hospitatlity. If you’d make it to Jerusalem, my home is one option!

    Really now. As much as we must continually point out what needs improvement in the community of Torah devotees, let us not forget that by the end of the day it’s not about seeking others to comfort us, but seeking to comfort others – especially our Creator, as it were. That comfort also happens by HELPING OTHERS HELP YOU.

    Like the Tsedaka seekers try to do to me every tfilla. I’m not always into it, but occassionally one asks in a way that makes me pleased to give to him.

    Judgment goes two ways.

    As per the Chanuka tfilla: Danta es dinam, G-d judged our judgements. So that’s it. We no longer need to!!

  4. It is very easy to feel judged by the frum community. I am a 31 year old single Jewish non-observant male who lives in Staten Island and I have had many negative experiences with the frum community. You feel like a complete outsider. People do not say hello to you, do not invite you for Shabbos or Yom Tov. I have been told to keep Shabbos by myself in my non-observant parent’s home. It is so hurtful. I have no rabbi, no FFB or BT friends that I can talk to and you do feel judged because the frum community is not at all welcoming. And it is a true statement that the non-Orthodox Jews feel that the Orthodox Jews do not accept them as Jews and it is true because the Orthodox community does not go out of their way to welcome anybody except other frum people which is sad. We are all Jews and you should realize the pain you are inflicting on your non-observant brethren.

  5. We all have a great deal to learn from one another, observant or not. I would not call it a one-sided relationship.

    When I taught I learned that students do not want to learn anything from a teacher who doesn’t respect them. It is a total turn off. That means we have to find something to latch on to, to respect in everyone we meet. Then the doors open.

  6. It seems to me, that part of human nature is to take things personally, “you’re religions, there fore there must be something wrong with me not being religious”

    When i was vegetarian, as soon as someone heard i was vegetarian, they would engage me in ethical debate and start defending their own eating habits. Same when i was training for racing, “oh i would train if only” i would hear “i just don’t have time, motivation…” or insert any number of excuses.

    People feel that just because someone else is engaged in “proper” behavior, then this person must automatically be judging them for not having this behavior.

    A better way, is if they do see someone religious, is to be inspired rather than “con”spired so to speak. and from the religious persons point of view, they should seek to inspire and not judge as well. They should see this as an opportunity to teach not preach. “This is what I do” because…rather than this is what YOU SHOULD DO…that tends to turn people off, and seems more like judging.

  7. Steg, mitigating circumstances still sounds like guilty with an explanation.


    What it means, as far as i’m concerned, is being understanding. If, as R’ David Tzvi Hoffmann taught, someone who doesn’t know any better is an omeir mutar (i.e. not meizid = shogeig), and someone who does something because they believe it’s the right thing to do is a case of ónes, that’s not just “guilty with explanation” — that’s ‘not even liable for punishment’

  8. I think that one can and should strive in this context to be a role model, a teacher, but never to appear that he or she is sitting in judgment. IMO, we have to remember that the rebbe-talmid relationship is one where the rebbe teaches and the talmid has the choice of accepting or rejecting the information being set forth. We have to remember that there is only Shofet Kal HaAretz.

  9. Two comments:

    One: part of the problem lies in people’s misunderstanding of what others think, based on their own insecurities or immaturity, which can be summed up by the saying: when I was in my 20s I was sensitive to what people were thinking about me; when I was in my 30s I decided that I no longer cared what people thought about me; and when I reached my 40s I realized that no one was really thinking about me all along, they had enough of their own problems to think about!!

    Two: in today’s world, people feel uncomfortable with anyone who claims to know or believe “the truth.” The mere fact that we claim that Torah is emes makes people very uncomfortable and feel judged for doing otherwise. This is especially true of Jews who deep down yearn to be a “good Jew.”

  10. Sometimes being judged feels painful, and sometimes it doesn’t. There are certain areas that someone could judge me on (say, extended nursing), and it wouldn’t bother me at all. It might be somewhat irritating if they told me frequently that I shouldn’t nurse an older toddler, but it wouldn’t feel *painful*. If they judged me for not being on top of my children’s homework, then the judging *would* feel painful to me, because I am more sensitive about that issue. Essentially I feel somewhat inadequate in this area and feel bad about it. So judging pours salt in my wounds, so to speak. So I think that judging (whether real or perceived) feels painful only if we are not completely confident in our behavior or beliefs.

    That said, it is of course not our place at all to judge other people. One way of avoiding it is by trying to learn from everyone. When we view ourselves as superior, the other person *is* likely to feel judged, and may well feel antagonistic to our values. There is so much negative potential for ourselves and for the other person in judging them, and very little positive. So there is no good reason to cause another person the pain of feeling judged. And we have so much opportunity for growth by trying to learn from others. Who is wise? The one who learns from everyone.

    Oh, and Dave, the “Hechsher Tzedek” sounds to me like a nice idea. I have heard about it for a couple of years at least, and it never occurred to me that Orthodox Jews would feel judged by it. But I guess that fits in with my first paragraph above.

  11. “A non-frum Jewish guy told me the other day that he just knows that all of us frummies think he’s the worst Jew ever and he’s going to hell and that he’s a bad person.”

    Not only does he believe that, I bet he enjoys the “black sheep” persona. My brother is like that. He enjoys purposely going against Judaism. He went out of his way to tell my mom that he has a Christmas tree.

  12. I think there is an elephant in the room that very few in Jewish outreach are willing to address. Part of the problem lays with the person who isn’t frum. Non-frum Jews often have a chip on their shoulders when it comes to observant Judaism. For starters, no one wants to be told, no matter how nicely, that the way they have been doing things is all wrong. And second, if they’re not interested in becoming frum, they may feel uncomfortable around frum Jews because they perceive (often rightly so) that the frum Jew wants to “convert” them.

    Charnie’s example of the boy who told the non-frum girl that you can’t drive on Shabbat is the perfect example of this. If the non-frum mother was comfortable with her level of observance, she would just tell her kid, “that’s the rule in Moshe’s family, but it’s not our rule.” Instead, the non-frum mother is upset that a kid told her kid a true statement of that kid’s beliefs.

  13. we shouldn’t make one person, one bad encounter, the representative of an entire group of people

    But unfortunately, it’s the bad encounters that stick most in people’s mind. I was involved in one kiruv organization. We had a great day at an amusement park. I can only remember two things from that day. I had a picture taken with the lady who would eventually become my wife (at the time we were just friends, and the photographer happened to take a picture of us as we entered the park). And one person in the group yelled at me because he “caught” me eating non-kosher food. (I never claimed to be observant/kosher/etc.) I’m sure I did other things, went on rides, talked with friends, etc. If I didn’t still have that picture, I don’t know if I’d even remember that part. But I still remember vividly being yelled at and how it made me feel.

    Same goes for that “one person” in a group. Unfortunately, that’s how stereotypes begin. Yes, it can be over come, and should be; but businesses know, few customers will remember average/good service. Almost all customers will remember bad service.

  14. I think that also people project their issues onto others. A non-frum Jewish guy told me the other day that he just knows that all of us frummies think he’s the worst Jew ever and he’s going to hell and that he’s a bad person. I told him that I have more than enough problems to think about without worrying about his Jewish soul. Maybe he’s had bad encounters, we’ve all had bad encounters but we shouldn’t make one person, one bad encounter, the representative of an entire group of people (frum or not).

  15. DY said “…because in their world, the idealism that would allow for loving welcome to a stranger is in short supply”

    Not necessarily. If they’re not frum, they may still be idealistic in some aspects. I think many BT’s come from families that are idealistic in some important way.

  16. it’s often amusing to me to hear how judgmental and close-minded we orthodox jews are made out to be, as if the “other side” were any less so.that’s not true.

    i believe that nf people who meet up with frum people whose judaism goes more than just skin deep are often extremely surprised at how open and welcoming they find them to be. i think the sticky part is when they interact with people who are billed as orthodox but fall short in the middos tovos department.

    part of this judgmental feeling IMO is also a result of the plethora of “establishment” judaism venues which are every bit as bureaucratic and xenophobic as their conservative, reform, reconstructionist or unaffiliated counterparts.

    people feel a knee-jerk reaction that they identify as feeling judged when they sense that the millieu they’ve just stepped into is unlike anything they’ve ever encountered before. what’s more, they can’t believe that they aren’t being judged, when they realize that we don’t do things that they do, because in their world, the idealism that would allow for loving welcome to a stranger is in short supply.

    the only thing to do about it in my view is just to keep on showing people that we are warm and real and don’t expect them to kasher their kitchens tonight. show them we can relate, that we are also human, also have challenges (some of which they can even relate to) and also sometimes fail.

  17. An incident occurred on my block recently that is similar to the thoughts in this post.

    My next door neighbors are frum. The people who live on the other side of them are a lovely young couple where the wife is somewhat traditional, the husband non-religious. We are good friends with both, and in particular, try to have the non-frum couple over for Yom Tovim etc. Well, recently, frum neighbor’s 5 year old son announced to the daughter of the other, as only a child that age can, “You’re not allowed to drive on Shabbos”. Both mothers were quite upset, and in particular, the frum mother was not happy that her son was being asked to apologize for saying what he believed to be emes.

    There’s now a little chill on the block. This is no doubt the result of the not-yet-frum family feeling that they are being judged, and the frum family feeling that what they’ve taught their child is being held up to be an intrusive comment, and that he should understand that not everyone is Orthodox. But we’re talking with a 5 year old, not a child who is at an age where they can comprehend the differences between Jews.

    My suggestion was merely that they try to explain to their son that some people just haven’t had the opportunity to learn about mitzvahs yet.

  18. Eliminate? We need to enhance and qualify it! We are ALL being Judged, every moment. The trick is in sharing this truth in a way that helps people feel they can trust the Judger and develop their lives accordingly.

    It really is not a problem merely between religious / not yet religious. I’d even say it is, in essence, a bigger problem between different shades of religious.

    For so many of us do religion at some point in order to eliminate the Judgment. But that’s missing the essence. We need to be in this world in order to please the Judger – and then some.

    Halavie that Yidden would truly support one another this way.

  19. From an outside perspective, it seems this sensitivity goes both ways.

    To my eyes at least, any actions by heterodox Jewish groups that appears to judge orthodox Judaism, whether it be Hechsher Tzedek or policies at a University Hillel House, gets an almost visceral reaction from the Orthodox community.

    So, the easiest thing I could suggest is, “think about how you feel when other Jewish groups judge you”.

Comments are closed.