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    The Rambam, in one
    place in his writings,
    discusses the proper
    attitude we are supposed to
    have to things which the
    Torah forbids us to do.
    When a person sees a cheeseburger, for
    example, he should not say, “Ugh! That’s
    revolting! Why would I ever want to eat such
    a thing?!” Instead, the Rambam writes, a
    person should say, “Wow, that looks very
    tempting. I wish I could eat that. But I’m not
    going to, because Hashem said it’s forbidden.”
    I believe that the Rambam here is teaching us
    something very important about emotions.
    He’s telling us that we should never feel
    ashamed of our feelings. We should never try
    not to feel. There is nothing wrong with
    desiring something forbidden. There is
    nothing wrong with feeling nervous, with
    feeling angry, with feeling frustrated, with
    feeling upset, with feeling confused, or with
    feeling depressed. All these emotions are
    perfectly normal. They’re part of being
    human. We should never feel guilty for
    experiencing these emotions. The Torah tells
    us how to act, how to live our lives. Feelings
    are perfectly legitimate. People sometimes

    make the mistake of trying to tell others what
    to feel. When they know that somebody is
    going through tough time, in a sincere but
    misguided effort to
    help, they try to convince the person not to
    be so upset, not to worry, not to be so anxious,
    not to be angry, not to have whatever hard
    feeling they’re experiencing at that point.
    They might talk to them about emunah, about
    trusting in Hashem, about how everything is
    really good, about how Hashem will make
    sure everything turns out fine. This is not
    necessarily helping. If we want to help
    somebody who is going through a difficult
    crisis, the most important thing we can do is
    let them feel whatever it is that they feel. To
    avoid judging their emotions, and to avoid
    telling them what their emotions should be. In
    Parashat Mishpatim, the Torah discusses the
    situation of
    a poor person who needed to borrow money,
    and he gave his garment to the lender as
    collateral. The Torah commands the lender to
    return the garment each night, because the
    pauper needs it to keep him warm at night. If
    the lender does not return the garment at
    night, Hashem warns, then when the borrower

    cries out, “I will listen,
    because I am merciful.”
    Hashem will hear the
    poor man’s cry, and
    punish the lender. The
    Ramban explains that
    the lender might not
    find it necessary to
    return the garment to
    the borrower if the
    borrower is not a very
    good fellow. Hashem
    therefore says that He does not judge people
    who are in distress. If somebody cries out to
    Him in pain, Hashem listens to His cry, even
    if he is not such a great person. This is a very
    powerful message for us regarding the proper
    approach to hesed, to dealing with people
    facing a loss, a crisis, or a
    problem. We need to listen to them without
    passing judgment, without telling them what
    to think or what to feel. If we want to be a
    helpful family member or friend, this is what
    we need to do – listen, without being critical
    and without assuming that we have the
    solution. Extending this one step further, we
    should realize that virtually everyone is going
    through some kind of problem in their life. Of

    course, most of us like to hide it, and pretend
    that we have our lives all worked out and
    perfectly in order. But the vast majority of us
    are going through difficult challenges at any
    given time. Once we realize this, we will be
    far less critical and far less judgmental. We
    will be more open to giving people the benefit
    the doubt, and to feeling sympathy rather than
    resentment. If we want to help people, the
    most important thing we need to do is to allow
    all people the right to feel what they feel,
    understand that everybody has difficulties of
    some kind, and listen attentively and
    sympathetically without passing judgment
    and without telling the person what he should
    be doing. We just need to listen and be
    merciful, just like Hashem.