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.