Friday, August 29, 2008

RE'EH: SEEING WITH THE GOOD EYE

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


Enough squinting. Close your bad eye and just look with the good. We have two eyes, just as we have two choices in life- to follow good or to follow evil. We can choose the evil eye or we can choose the good eye.

RE'EH ANOCHI NOTAIN LIFNEYCHEM HAYOM BRACHA U'KLALAH (Deut 11:26)

"See I am giving before all of you a blessing and/or a curse (your choice)."

We can choose to live in a blessed paradise of our own making through our thoughts, speech and actions. If we see others' actions as self serving and self aggrandizing, always looking for that cynical put down, then others will judge our motives in the same light. We create the universe we live in by the energy we emit, which returns to us many times over. Negative thoughts manifest as negative energy. This translates into curse.

Conversely, by taking people at their word, giving them the benefit of the doubt, not judging their motives negatively without conclusive evidence to the contrary, we allow positive energy to charge all our relationships. This translates as blessing.

In Genesis 1 we see the first use of a variation of the Hebrew root for RE'EH (see). VAYAR ELO*IM KI TOV.

"And G*d saw that it was GOOD."

The energy of creation bathed the nascent world in goodness. G*d saw beauty and goodness in the world. Were the seeds of potential evil present in the DNA structure of life? Of course. But G*d saw the inherent goodness of His Creation. He saw the potential of everything to be good. Or rather, even G*d had a choice. He chose to see the true goodness inhering potentially in Creation. By focusing on the good, we coax it to dominate and allow the the full expression of the dormant potential within to become manifest.

So too, we are bidden in this week's parsha to also choose. As the people of Israel (am yisrael) prepare to embark on their mission of recreating a new Eden, based on the morality and ethics embodied in the Torah, they (we) are instructed to embrace an ethos of conscious choice. This successful model of a utopian society of blessing was to spread out to enlighten all humanity.

Similarly, in the spirit of imitatio dei (kedoshim tihiyu ki ani kadosh), we are bidden to SEE with G*dly eyes. To recreate the Edenic paradigm, we must see the potential goodness in our children, in our spouses, and in our friends and neighbors. Even in the stranger in our midst.

But what is perhaps even the hardest to see is the goodness inherent in one's self. One must believe that one is inherently connected to G*d and thus to the root goodness of the universe.

The near universal pandemic of pedophilia across cultures destroys the child's inborn sense of self-worth. The Hellenic world, where early Christianity flourished, was deeply embedded in this pathology. One of the reasons that early Christianity was able to spread so successfully was precisely because so many people doubted their own inherent self worth and goodness. The idea of original sin and man's inherent fallibility resonated deeply with the masses. Thus the solution to an over wrought sense of internalized guilt resonated deeply as well.

But Judaism teaches that we are resoundingly not inherently fallible. We are blessed with a choice to follow and do the good which inheres potentially within each and every one of us. Original virtue inheres potentially within each of us.

To "get" good and live a blessed life, one must expect good in people. To "get" bad and live a cursed life, one must expect (or rather suspect) bad in people.

I once lived in a community and saw with my own eyes how dominant was the hold that the "evil eye" had on the community. Everyone was judged by the worst intentions. Anyone who attempted to restore goodness was slandered and maligned. All goodness was driven away. All that was left was a bitter self-fulfilling circle of suspicion and envy. Needless to say, it was no
Eden.

How important is it to learn to instinctively try to see the good in people and to banish cynical assumptions about others' motives? It's as important as the Ten Commandments. Just as the Ten Commandments begin with the word ANOCHI for the word "I", so too does our parsha's first verse, the topic of this essay. Usually ANI is used. The relative rarity of ANOCHI instead of ANI only serves to underscore how central and key this teaching is to living a blessed life.

G*d said, "YEHI OHR, Let there be light...and G*d saw that it was good."

Israel is to be a Light to the Nations, an OHR LAGOYIM. But first just try being a light to yourself and to those around you. The rest will follow.

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

1 comment:

Betsy said...

Man must not make the mistake of thinking that order and harmony are a natural state of affairs. They are fragile and exist only when we live in the will of G*D. All our study and all are prayers are for not if we don't love our neighbor as our self.

NEVER GIVE UP!

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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!