UNITE OR UNTIE: IT ALL DEPENDS ON THE “I” (EYE)!
By Sherrie B. Miller
This week’s Parsha depicts the character of Bilaam as a “rasha” despite his singular power amongst the goyim as a renowned prophet. The Torah refers to him as the “single eyed prophet.” The interpretation of the Onkelos asserts that Bilaam was blind in one eye!
What is the significance of this fact and what is it that the Torah is trying to teach us?
We read in Pirket Avot that in order to be like Avraham Avinu, one must possess the following three traits: an “ayin tova”, (a good eye) modesty and generosity. In direct opposition, followers of Bilaam possess an “evil eye”, arrogance and greed. These three traits have the power to unite us or Heaven forbid dividing and “untying” us.
Rabbi Eliezer reinforces this idea by stating that the most essential character trait one ought to develop is an “ayin tova” for it creates blessing and leads to an abundance mentality when we are focused on the positive and good and what is “right” with others.
Chazal explain that we were created with two eyes for a reason. One eye is meant to magnify the positive in ourselves and others, while the other eye minimizes flaws in us or others. Focusing on the good is a constant and deliberate choice that we make which determines our entire “weltanschauung”, our view of the world.
Bilaam with his one eye indulged in greed, arrogance and looked with evil intent upon the Jewish nation causing his ultimate demise. Since marriage is more a matter of choice nowadays, and numerous choices abound, many go out on a date focused on the others’ faults and shortcomings, thus formulating reasons why he/she is “not the one!” Some operate with the misguided notion that perhaps someone better will come along tomorrow, so why settle?
The problem with this notion is that we fail to accept that just as we are not perfect, neither is anyone else. Happy marriages are created by two imperfect people working together toward a common goal, to build a Jewish home.
If we were to exercise our “ayin tova” on a date, with the intent of discovering what “is right” about this person and assume that” this is the one” we’d see a lot more weddings taking place.
A renowned Rav in Israel asserts that if you have met more than 5 people that you’ve rejected, it is time to look inside and find out what is blocking you. (The assumption is that your matchmaker is reliable and that the dates were in the ball park of common backgrounds, ages and goals.) There is a great need to cultivate and nurture our “ayin tova”, a most essential midah.
Unfortunately, our culture thrives on self-sufficiency, self-reliance and independence causing us to fear connection and dread the possibility of the loss of self. Our vision of our self and others is narrow and limited, replete with judgments. The truth is, that in connection there is blessing and expansion: as the famous postulate states: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Not allowing ourselves to focus with an ayin tova on the good in the other, is often a result of this fear of losing our independence. We sub-consciously look without seeing, our vision is impaired and sometimes we are even blinded like Bilaam.
Looking with our eyes is both a physical and a spiritual phenomenon.
“Ayin”, (eye) is pronounced identically to “ayin with an aleph, which means “nothingness”. Jumble the same three letters and you get “ani”, I. The key is in the proper balance of arrogance versus feeling like “nothing”. Using one eye to keep our (I) ego in check by admitting our imperfections, or seeing our own strengths when we’re too hard on ourselves while simultaneously utilizing our ayin tova to see the uniqueness of others will more easily lead to the proper frame of mind uniting rather than untying couples in the dating process.
Sherrie B. Miller is a Jewish matchmaker on SawYouAtSinai and a dating coach in Jerusalem. She received her counseling degree from the Michlala in Jerusalem and an M.A. in Jewish Education from Touro College. Sherrie is certified by Midreshet Emunah and is accredited by the Rabbanut of Israel, to be a pre-marital couple’s counselor and Kallah teacher.