The Opinions of Others

Yael Eckstein  |  August 2, 2022

Yael Eckstein at Chicago office of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
(Photo: Erik Unger)

“Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God.” — Deuteronomy 1:17

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Devarim which means “words,” from Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22.

A few months ago, in honor of the anniversary of my father’s death, I had the pleasure of hosting my Uncle Beryl Eckstein, my father’s brother, on my podcast, Nourish Your Biblical Roots. I learned a lot in that conversation that I hadn’t fully appreciated before.

During the conversation, I had a chance to hear from my uncle, firsthand, what it was like for my father during the years that he was forging a new path in Jewish-Christian relations. I was just a child in those early years, but my uncle was able to tell me about the difficult times that he watched my father endure.

What hit me hardest was hearing about all the times my father was verbally attacked and embarrassed by prominent Jewish leaders who didn’t approve of what he was doing, mainly because they didn’t understand it. But in spite of all the attacks, it never even occurred to my father to give up. My father had full faith that he was doing what God called him to do and he knew that judgment belonged to God alone.

The Opinions of Others

We see the importance of not being afraid of human criticism in the pursuit of truth in this week’s Torah portion. In Moses’ instructions to the judges that he appointed to help lead the nation, he said, “Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God.”

In Hebrew the verse literally says, “Do not be afraid of any man.” In other words, the opinions of others should be of no consequence when we are determining what is true and right in the eyes of God.

It’s true that someone may explain to us why we have made a mistake, but that’s not what this verse is talking about. Moses was warning the judges against altering their judgment out of fear of getting on the wrong side of powerful and influential people in the community.

And it’s not just a lesson for leaders. We have all been in situations where we allow our judgment of what is right to be clouded by the opinions of others, fearing the reaction of those around us. We must remember that “judgment belongs to God,” therefore “do not be afraid of anyone.”

Your Turn:

When have you taken an unpopular position due to the strength of your convictions? How did others react? How did you react? How does knowing that “judgment belongs to God” help you?

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