Ethics

For the week ending 10 June 2006 / 14 Sivan 5766

Above Suspicion

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: I sometimes find myself in a situation in which I know that I am acting in a perfectly proper fashion, but one that arouses the suspicion of others who are unfamiliar with the circumstances and judge one by appearances. If G-d knows that I am right must I be concerned with what suspicious people may think?

Answer: The need to avoid suspicion even when you are acting with perfect honesty is stressed in passages in the Torah, Prophets and Writings. The most explicit source is the counsel of Moshe to the Tribes of Reuven and Gad when dealing with their request for allocating their portions of Eretz Yisrael on the western side of the Jordan River: “You shall be free of guilt before G-d and before Yisrael.” (Bamidbar 32:22)

Although it is incumbent on the observers of your behavior to favorably judge your suspicious action, you have no right to assume that they will do so. By assuming that you have done something wrong they not only lose their respect for you but also are sometimes even encouraged to behave improperly since “everyone does it”.

It is therefore crucial to always behave in a manner that is above suspicion.

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