Examples abound: standing idle as others gossip about a friend, embarrassingly watching a waiter or waitress belittled by a patron or witnessing some kind of abuse and shrugging one’s shoulders. These kinds of acts happen every day, and we assume something is wrong with the perpetrator. We seldom infer that something is wrong with us.
The fifth chapter of Leviticus explains that if a person witnesses someone else involved in a sinful matter and the person says nothing, the witness should be punished. The Baal Shem Tov adds, “If a person witnesses a wrongdoing of his fellow, this is a message to him that he too is guilty of something similar.” What a shockingly profound lesson. We can easily look at our own reflection and attempt to analyze our behavior. But God gives us better messages. There are mirrors all around us: human beings failing time and time again to remind us of the ways we must improve. Each sin we witness is a wake-up call to the mistakes we make, every single day.
Usually we see someone error and we can’t help but think that we would never “act like that.” But God is speaking loud and clear. In a world filled with sin, we can’t lament about everyone else. Instead, we must peer into our hearts and wonder, how can I do better?