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There’s so much hypocrisy!

There’s so much hypocrisy!



I've been getting into Torah lately. But the more I learn, the more I see how everyone around me is doing it all wrong. I don't mean the people that are not observant. I mean the people that have committed to an observant life. There's so much hypocrisy!


Don't get so excited. It's just a personality thing. You're probably one of those School of Shammai souls. Remember the story with the Talmudic sage Shammai? A man came and asked, "Convert me to Judaism on condition that you tell me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot!" Shammai chased the mocker out with a yardstick.

So he went to Hillel. Hillel converted him on the spot and then told him: "That which is hateful to you, don't do to others. This is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary. Now go and learn it!"

Some people tie their shoelaces a little looser. Some tie them real tight. Some let the world come in as one big blur. Others focus on every detail and weigh and measure with a precise rule.

Problem is, the world is a messy place.

It all began when we ate from the Tree of Knowing Good With Evil -- our world became a place of compounds and mixtures. Wherever you find beauty, there's going to be ugliness. You won't find joy without sorrow, pleasure without pain. You cannot invent a thing that will provide benefit without threat of harm, or find a man on this earth who does only good without fault.

Wherever you will find one form of good, you're going to find another sort of evil. And where that evil does not lie, another takes its place. You want to find pure and simple goodness in a single being? It will be rare, very, very rare.

This is what wise King Solomon had to say: Don't reject any thing for the harm it could cause. Don't despise any man for the ugliness inside him. Rather, use each thing towards the purpose G‑d conceived it for, and learn from each man all he has to offer.

But you are doing the Shammai thing--both to all the people around you and to yourself as well: You're creating a model in your mind of how things should be, and measuring everything according to that yardstick. And guess what? Things don't line up.

I'm not telling you to throw the yardstick out. Just be a little more practical with its use. This is an imperfect world. We're not there yet. Measure accordingly. Both yourself and others.

Have you ever done any carpentry or one of those Ikea do-it-yourself jobs? They always tell you not to tighten the bolts until the whole thing's been put together.

Hillel summed it all up:

Don't chase people out with measuring sticks.

You don't like being measured to perfection, so don't do that to others.

Now go and learn. Dig deeper and deeper.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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JDV May 4, 2015

Hypocricy I'm sorry, but much as I respect Rabbi Freeman, I have to agree with the letter writer on this one. My husband is forcing us to continue to stay at a Reform temple where there is so much hypocricy, that I can barely stand going at all. But guess what? It got me onto your web site 4.5 years ago so out of bad comes good, right? Reply

Pinchus Brooklyn NY October 3, 2013

To Jew no more I became BT to get away from the secular and liberal hypocrisy of those to talk about "doing right without G-D".
Who then support all kinds of evil and call it "good".
How is it right to call for the slow torture death of anyone falsely accused of abusing animals (as hundreds of millions do on millions of blogs) while at the same time defending a partial birth abortionist who cruely murders a fully viable baby?

That is just one many examples of secular hypocrisy and it's far from just a "few cases" too. There is much hypocrisy among many who claim to follow Torah and it's a huge problem.

But Torah itself is not "superstition" and does not become so, just because of the hypocrisy. If people were perfect we would not need Torah and its laws. A Midresh (I believe), says the angels who have no Yetzer Hara and who never get jealous or greedy, were refused the Torah for that reason.

It's for fallible humans, not for perfect angels. Reply

Katrin August 25, 2012

@anonymus "My point is that it's not so much the imperfection that's bothering, but the unwillingness to recognize it..."

There's a time for everything. If you have a lot of responsibility for others, a stressful job, or you simply know that there're a lot of things you need to change, then you might not want to, or be able to, confront yourself with all of your imperfections at a certain time. Some people need to walk slowlier, work things out with themselves step by step, realizing just as much as they're able to cope with at one time, and take things step by step... one thing after the other. So this unwillingness of somebody that you might encounter, might not be an unwillingness to recognize things, but a NEED not to recongize them, for as long as the person is not ready to make the next step. He might as well take the next step at a later time. So, we shouldn't judge so quickly, but sometimes be patient with them. Reply

Jew no more Albany, NY September 26, 2010

Pat but essentially false If no one actually believes this stuff, then it is all platitude. If no one actually lives this way, then it is all show and dance.

Better to admit that and ignore it than play the hypocrite. This is exactly why I am an ex-BT. I gave up on the lies and corruption and decided to live my life without the nonsense.

Do right, ignore ritual, forget stupid iron-age superstition and be honest with yourself and others. No one has the right to ask or expect more than that. Those who do are the liars and hypocrites I walked away from. Reply

Wendy Geneseo, New York February 10, 2009

Hypocrites I lost many years of study and peace of mind by focusing on the sins of others instead of perfection that is G-d. Reply

Chuck columbia, sc June 26, 2008

shammai v. hillel shammai with yourself, hillel with others Reply

Aitan Levy Tarzana, CA July 5, 2007

doing the Shammai thing Wow what a great answer. I really needed to read that right now.
I really think that Shammai thing is in the air right now. Reply

Anonymous April 23, 2007

I have worked for someone who had a plague (pun intended) on the door of her office which said: 'If nobody is perfect then I am Nobody.'
I guess I would rather be somebody then. Or just anybody....
My point is that it's not so much the imperfection that's bothering, but the unwillingness to recognize it, or even the way in which we institutionalize all the imperfections.
I still think although Hillel might be a realist which in itself is good, we shouldn't make his realism our measuring-rod. ('okay, we're human, so we can twist the truth a little, or we even MUST to be part of the community'). Reply

Tom April 8, 2007

The world is a messy place R. Freeman's words are brilliant. It is a messy place. I find myself alternating between idealism and cynicism depending on the face of it I see that day. It is a hard balance to maintain healthy idealism when seeing the "practical" side of the world. Try. You don't want disillusionment to ruin your attitude. Your attitude helps shape the world you see. Reply

James Hamm June 5, 2006

Polarity Will a day ever come where we will walk with G-d without turning to the left or the right? Reply

Anonymous March 5, 2006

Hypocrisy is in something different Without setting a goal in front of you, it is impossible to keep moving. The fact that I am not at a particular place in my service of G-dis ok. All that matters is if you're moving to the right place -- which was the heart of many of the last Rebbe's teachings... Reply

Samuel Manchester, KY July 27, 2005

Great advice I have read both articles and felt very enlightened by both of them. I think that the world should be measured by both Hillel's standards and by Shammai's standards, to give a person a balanced outcome. Yes, we should recognize things in the aspect of perfectness, but still be lenient and merciful, realizing that the human man has short-comings and failures, striving to be the best we can be ... to expand our horizons and boundaries continuously throughout our lives in service to G-d and man. Reply