The Torah teaches that an animal must have cloven hooves and chew its cud in order to be a kosher species (Leviticus 11:3).
Scripture then goes on to name a number of animals that chew their cud, but don’t have cloven hooves: the camel, the hyrax and the hare (Leviticus 11:4-6).
If you pay careful attention to how the text describes these animals, the original Hebrew has a peculiar variation between the three animals:
THE CAMEL is unclean because while it chews its cud, its hooves ARE not split.
THE HYRAX is unclean because while it chews its cud, its hooves WILL not split.
THE HARE is unclean, for while it chews its cud, its hooves WERE not split.
The sign of impurity is first described in the present tense, then in the future tense and finally in the past tense!
According to R’ Yisrael Salanter, we are being taught an important lesson here. Before passing a negative judgement on someone, we need to look at not only their present situation, but their past and future as well. Before we condemn someone for their present misdeeds, we should realize that they may have had a pristine past. And even if their past was also checkered – they have the potential to improve in the future!