Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Question

Is there a concept in Judaism of being considered innocent until proven guilty?

4 months

Answers

  1. Definitely! There is a very important teaching in Judaism called “judging favorably”. This means that we should go to extreme lengths to view another’s acts or words in a positive light, despite how they appear to be. Even words like “he allegedly did such-and-such” should not be in our thoughts or our words. A person is to be given the benefit of the doubt unless known otherwise beyond a doubt.

    Here’s a true story that a friend of mine told me:

    It was Rosh Hashana, and there was a person elbowing his way through the synagogue. My friend told me that he thought to himself, “I can’t believe it! Bad enough on a regular day, but on Rosh Hashana!? He’s actually pushing people out of his way to get to his seat. Okay, it’s crowded and he’s late, but he should have gotten here on time if it’s so important to him to begin the prayer service with us. This is a perfect example of doing a mitzvah by means of a transgression. Is that really a mitzvah?”

    But there’s more to the story, said my friend. “When the person finally got to his place, he reached into his personal compartment where he usually kept his prayer book and prayer shawl. And what did we all see him take out from there? An EMT box! He was an emergency medical technician, known in Israel as a “hatzala” (Hebrew for “saving”) volunteer, and he was rushing to his seat to get his box of equipment.”

    Judaism teaches that people are innocent until proven guilty. If you assume that others are acting with the best of intentions, you will often find that you are absolutely right.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team