Open Our Eyes to the Full Picture

Yael Eckstein  |  July 13, 2022

Yael Eckstein embracing elderly Jewish woman

Then Balak said to him, “Come with me to another place where you can see them; you will not see them all but only the outskirts of their camp. And from there, curse them for me.” — Numbers 23:13

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Balak, after the king of the Moabites, from Numbers 22:2–25:9.

The Jewish sages placed a great importance on always seeing the good in all people. And I have to say, it isn’t always easy. Sometimes we are biased by our own hurt feelings or our ego that makes us look on others with what the rabbis called tzarut ayin, “a narrow eye.”

We are seeing with “a narrow eye” because we are only seeing the small piece of the picture that suits our preconceived attitude. But when we try to open our eyes to the full picture, we are more inclined to see the positive in others and give them the benefit of the doubt.

I was once at the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem and saw a beautiful ancient Hebrew prayer, framed and hanging on one of the walls. It reminded me of that lesson, so I took a picture of it so that I would remember the words.

This is what it said: “May it be Your will, God, that I not find faults in anyone. Through Your mercy, may I always be able to judge others favorably. May You give me the intelligence to understand how to search for and find redeeming factors, strengths, and virtues, in all people, at all times. Amen.”

Open Our Eyes to the Full Picture

We see this idea in this week’s Torah portion. As we have learned earlier, Balak, the king of Moab, wanted the evil sorcerer Balaam to curse the children of Israel. But God intervened and placed words of blessing into Balaam’s mouth instead. Then the Bible tells us what Balak and Balaam next tried to do to successfully curse Israel.

We read, “Then Balak said to him, ‘Come with me to another place where you can see them; you will not see them all but only the outskirts of their camp. And from there, curse them for me.’” 

Jewish tradition teaches that King Balak tried to find a place where only the weakest part of the nation of Israel could be seen. He reasoned that by intentionally not seeing the full greatness of Israel, Balaam might then be able to curse them.

When we look negatively at others, it usually means that we’re looking only at their weakest traits and seeing with “a narrow eye.” We see only the small part we want to see. We must work to keep our eyes open to the full picture and not have “a narrow eye.”

Your Turn:

Next time you catch yourself thinking negatively about someone, stop. Remind yourself that you are seeing with “a narrow eye” and ask God to help you open your eyes to see the full picture.

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