Imagine if there existed a spiritual secret which would ensure that all your actions would be viewed in Heaven in a positive light. Heavenly angels would come to your defense and would work strenuously to find excuses for your sins. Amazingly, whatever excuse they would offer would gain favor in the Heavenly Court. Their defense would result in your acquittal in many instances and even when the verdict was “Guilty!” you would be dealt with mercifully.
Surely you would be anxious to hire a legal team and even pay millions of dollars to receive this sort of defense. In truth, anyone can obtain these celestial defense lawyers at no charge whatsoever.
It is really quite simple. If we judge our fellow man favorably, then in Heaven we are judged favorably. To the extent that we seek to find excuses for our fellow man’s behavior, the Heavenly angels will seek to find excuses for us. This is the primary benefit—but surely not the only one—of judging others favorably.
The positive commandment “With righteousness you shall judge your fellow “(Vayikra 19:15), requires one to judge favorably and see his actions in a positive light. If the circumstances can easily be judged favorably, one is absolutely required to do so. If circumstances lean toward a negative interpretation, nevertheless, says the Chofetz Chaim, it is quite correct to keep an open mind on the matter and not decide that the person is guilty. This is when the person is considered a beinoni (average) in his mitzvah observance. If he is known to be God-fearing, then one is required to judge him favorably even when circumstances lean towards guilt.
There is no question that judging unfavorably is the great engine that drives the “loshon hora machine.” Take the following example:
A person goes to a wedding and tells his friend, “The service was terrible. It really wasn’t worth the money.”
But perhaps the caterer is almost bankrupt and he had to manage three events on the same night just to keep his business afloat and feed his ten children. Awareness of this possibility would certainly impel you to ignore the fact that the roast beef was rather rare and was served a bit late.
The Torah requires us to make allowances for people who don’t live up to our expectations of them. By judging others favorably, says the Chofetz Chaim, we will guarantee ourselves great reward in the World to Come, and our lives in this world will be free of strife and low in anger as we become kinder, more understanding individuals.