Monday, July 6, 2009

Maarat Ayin - The Appearance of Impropriety

This idea started running around in my head after Michael Jackson died and all the news coverage followed - giving us the play by play of Jackson's life. They mentioned the scandals that he was involved in. I'm not going to discuss here the truth or the falsehood of any of the scandals - but wanted to mention an idea that occurred to me.

It's the concept of Maarat Ayin - the appearance of impropriety. We avoid doing things that may look like we're doing something wrong... even if we're not doing anything wrong. We don't want to give anybody that idea.

There are two reasons for this.
* The first is that we don't want anyone to think badly of us as an individual.
* The second is that it may give someone else the idea that what you're doing is correct, and influence them to do the wrong thing.

I will explain.

The first reason -
Jackson did many things that looked wrong, and as a result opened himself up to lawsuits and settlements.

As Jews, we're not only representing ourselves as individuals, but as a group. When one Jews does something right or wrong - it reflects on all of us as the Jewish People. Some have complained that it isn't fair to judge a whole group by something an individual does, but that does seem to be the reality.

The second reason -
An example of the second reason: A religious Jewish looking man is sitting in a non-kosher restaurant having a Coke. A Coke is kosher. Another Jew walking by the restaurant sees the religious Jew in the restaurant and mistakenly believes that the restaurant may be a kosher establishment. This Jew doesn't know that the religious Jew is only having a Coke and nothing else - and makes a big error as a result.

The Maarat Ayin is an interesting concept, since in reality - we are doing nothing wrong. Why are we so concerned with the appearance? Appearances matter. Society is based on trust between people. When trust breaks down, society isn't far behind.