Look at Things from a Distance

Yael Eckstein  |  September 2, 2020

Gavel and scales of justice

“Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey.” — Deuteronomy 26:15

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Ki Tavo, which means “when you have entered,” from Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8.

One evening, after a long day of work, my then seven-year-old daughter decided to surprise me by cleaning up our messy kitchen. When she excitedly showed me what she had done, I couldn’t help but notice the crumbs still on the floor and the sticky stains still on the counters. But, as I looked at my daughter’s face beaming with pride, I stopped looking so closely at the mess and instead saw a beautiful kitchen, cleaned by a wonderful child.

Sometimes, it’s good to look at things from a distance instead of noticing all the details.

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn that after an Israelite offered firstfruits (giving the very best portion of the crop to God) at the Temple, the following prayer was recited: “Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Israel….”

It’s interesting that the verse specifies that God should look down from heaven. It’s as though we are asking God to look at us from a distance, instead of looking us over closely. As King David proclaimed in Psalm 130:3, “If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?” If God looked at us closely and kept an exact account of our actions, including all of our misdeeds, none of us would be worthy of His blessings.

When a person offered God his firstfruits, no matter what sins he may have committed in the past, in that moment, he exhibited perfect faith and obedience. He gave God the best of what he had and trusted God to provide sustenance even though he had given away a portion of his hard-earned produce. The worshipper prayed that God would look at his righteous act, without looking at his imperfections, and bless him accordingly.

One lesson we can take from this is that when we look at others, we should look at things from a distance. We should never look too closely at their flaws, but instead judge people favorably and focus on their good points. Just as we would like God to see our overall good character and overlook our mistakes, we need to see others with the same generous perspective.

And I have no doubt that when we see others in this way, God will do the same with us – only see our good points and bless us accordingly.

Your turn:

Who is the person in your life that you need to step back and judge more favorably, focusing on what is good about him or her? Give it a try!