A rabbi and a friend of his are discussing theology, and the friend says to the rabbi, "You're always talking about the greatness of the Talmud. You even point to recent news articles about Korean schools that are teaching Talmud because it sharpens the mind. Will you teach me some Talmud?"

The rabbi says, "Look, Talmud study isn't easy. I'm not sure you're ready for it."

"Oh, come on. Give me a chance!" says the fellow.

"Ok, fine. Here's an example of Talmudic logic; let's see how you do:

Give me a chance!

“Two men fall down a chimney. One comes out dirty, the other is clean. Who washes?"

"Easy," the friend declares. "The dirty one washes, and the clean one doesn't!"

"Wrong!" retorts the rabbi. "The clean one looks at the dirty one and thinks that he is also dirty, and therefore washes. However, the dirty one looks at the clean one, and thinking that he is also clean, doesn't wash!"

"Give me another chance!" pleads the man.

"Okay, fine. Two men fall down a chimney. One comes out dirty, the other is clean. Who washes?"

"Same question? That's easy! The clean one looks at the dirty one and thinks that he is also dirty, and therefore washes. However, the dirty one looks at the clean one, and thinking that he is also clean, doesn't wash!"

"Wrong. I told you that you might not be ready for Talmudic logic. The clean one looks in the mirror, sees that he is clean, and doesn't wash. The dirty one looks in the mirror, and then goes to wash up."

"Not fair! You didn't tell me there was a mirror!"

"Look, in Talmudic study, you have to take all possibilities into account."

"For the last time: Two men fall down a chimney. One comes out dirty, the other is clean. Who washes?"

"This time I definitely have the correct answer!" the man declared triumphantly. "If there is no mirror, then the clean one will look at the dirty one, assume that he is also dirty, and will wash, and vice versa. However, if there is a mirror, then the clean one will look in the mirror, and see no need to wash, and vice versa!"

"Wrong again!" says the rabbi. "Tell me: How is it possible for two men to fall down a chimney, and one comes out dirty while the other remains clean?!"

In this week's Torah portion, we read of the Flood of Noah. In chapter 9, there is an account of how Noah planted a vineyard when he came out of the ark post-Flood. Then he drank wine, became intoxicated and shamefully uncovered himself inside his tent.

The Torah recounts:

[Noah's son] Cham, the father of Canaan, saw his father's nakedness, and told it to his two brothers outside. Shem and Japeth took a garment and placed it on their shoulders. They then walked into the tent backwards and covered their father's nakedness. Their faces were turned backwards, so that they did not see their father's nakedness.1

The Torah is extremely precise. If the verse already told us that Noah's sons Shem and Japeth walked backwards, then why does it also state that they did not see their father's nakedness? Isn't that obvious? If they walked backwards, of course they didn't see him!

The answer is that not only did they not physically see Noah's nakedness, but they did not focus on his shameful conduct. Rather, they took steps to help him and correct the situation. Cham, however, "saw his father's nakedness." Not only did he not do anything to help, but he reveled in Noah's shortcoming and rushed to tell his brothers.

The founder of the Chassidic movement, the Baal Shem Tov, taught that other people are like mirrors to us. In other words, if another person appears "dirty," it is merely a reflection of your own state.

However, there can be another purpose to recognizingIt's a delicate balancing act shortcomings in another person. We must take note of how we react:

If we see another's "nakedness" and focus on the flaw more than is necessary to help the person, we can be certain that in our perception is a message from Above that we share the same flaw.

Rest assured, however, that if we take action to remedy the situation and help the other person, this is certainly the reason that the Creator put us in the position to notice the other person's flaw.

It's a delicate balancing act: to see without seeing.To be sensitive enough to see the faults and deficiencies of other people, but without focusing on the faults, focusing only on what needs to be done to help them.