Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody
People have the tendency to ridicule those who don't act according to their own way of thinking, not considering that maybe they themselves are the ones who are wrong.
Many people make fun of those who live their lives with simple emuna. Since people think that tension, depression, self-persecution, criticism, heresy and cut-throat competition are today's norms, then anyone who doesn't live along these lines is daft.
Image at right, courtesy of Emuna Outreach: would a fancy yacht make fun of a simple life boat? That simple life boat might one day save those on board the fancy yacht...
Today's world ridicules those who quote the Bible instead of college textbooks. It's sad to see the world so far from the truth.
If we're not happy with our lot in life, it's time that we examine ourselves. Let's see what we can learn from the simple one. Being happy in life is like being a winner in life. If he's a winner and we're not, let's examine this further. If our current philosophy in life is not bringing us happiness, then maybe we should reevaluate how we're living our lives.
The Prophet Zachariah teaches (Zachariah 8:19) that truth and peace love one another. Our sages derive from this that truth is a prerequisite for inner peace. One who lacks inner peace should check if his path in life is not conflicting with truth. The simple one lived his life in accordance with the truth, as evidenced by his remarkable inner peace and self-composure.
Those who ridicule others are far from the truth. This enables them to remain in the swamp of arrogance and depression, while fooling themselves that they are superior to other human beings. Such an attitude is an abomination in Hashem's eyes.
One of the spiritually impure influences of modern times is people's lust for mockery and their need to make fun of others.
In order for humor to be “kosher,” it should fulfill three criteria:
1. It doesn't mock anyone;
2. It doesn't entail unwholesome language;
3. It's not the product of arrogance or the need to belittle someone else.
Every creation is the result of Divine wisdom. Mocking a creation is therefore tantamount to mocking the Creator. Understandably, those who make a habit of mocking others are not a worthy receptacle for Divine illumination.
The Gemara (Tractate Taanit, 20a) tells the eye-opening tale of Rebbe Elazar, son of Shimon, who was riding on the back of a donkey as he left the home of his teacher in Migdal Gdor:
Rebbe Shimon was extremely pleased with himself, for he had learned much Torah. Riding by the bank of a river, he encountered an extremely ugly individual.
The ugly person said, “A good day to you, Rabbi!”
Rebbe Elazar failed to return the greeting. Instead, he said, “Commoner, how ugly you are! Are all the people in your town as ugly as you are?”
The individual replied, “I don't know, but go tell the Creator Who created me how ugly His creation is...”
Rebbe Elazar knew that he had committed a terrible sin, so he got off the donkey, prostrated himself before the ugly person, and begged, “Please forgive me!
The individual replied, “I won't forgive you until you go tell the Creator Who created me how ugly His creation is...”
Rebbe Elazar pleaded with the man, walking behind him all the way until they reached the latter's town. The townspeople, seeing Rebbe Elazar arrive, came out to greet him, chanting, “Shalom Rebbe! Shalom, our teacher!”
The ugly man asked his neighbors, “Who are you calling 'rebbe' and 'teacher'?”
“To the person walking behind you,” they replied.
The man said, “If he's a rabbi, then there should hopefully not be many like him.”
“Why are you talking like that?” they asked. He told them the story of what happened on the way home. They urged him, “Forgive him – he is a great Torah scholar.”
“For you – my neighbors – I'll forgive him, but let him learn not to act like that anymore!”
One who mocks a creation mocks the Creator. Let us never forget that Hashem creates people with shortcomings, for those shortcomings are perfection for that particular person, enabling him to accomplish his mission in life and to attain his soul correction. One who therefore acknowledges Divine providence must necessarily respect every individual.
The above story is one big yield sign for all of us. If such a great sage as Rebbe Elazar, son of Rebbe Shimon, could err like that, then we all could. Even righteous spiritual leaders have made the same mistake.
During the time of Rebbe Nachman, there was a miracle worker by the name of Rabbi Yitzchak Leib. Childless and infertile women bore offspring as a result of his blessings. Wherever he went, throngs of people would follow him. But, many of the generation's righteous men castigated and disparaged him. He therefore became very disheartened. Rebbe Nachman commented, “It's no accomplishment to knock a person down; the trick is to lift a person up!”
Understandably, any fool can destroy. It takes a wise person to build. Mocking and making fun of another human is no sign of cleverness. One who knows how to encourage or vitalize another person is truly wise.
One of the worst mistakes in child education is to mock or disparage one's child. This is destruction rather than construction.
The terrible habit of mocking the weak is a result of arrogance, when people attribute their successes to themselves. They act as if they created themselves and as if they deserve the credit for their strengths. Maybe they're not doing their designated task in life; who says that they have the right to mock someone else?
The world rotates. Were it not for gravity, we'd see that when one portion of the earth is up, the other portion is down. When half the globe is dark, the other half is light. But, in twelve short hours, the part that was up will be down and the half that was light will be dark. By the same token, he who mocks others may very soon be the brunt of mockery.
Let's remember that each person has his own individual path in life, which requires his own unique characteristics and tools. No matter how strange another person may seem, we must never mock him.