Second Thoughts: Hidden From Sight

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Child with Magnifying Glass
10 Sep 2008

imageOne morning last week I awoke to a mercifully cloudy sky. After six weeks of blazing sunshine and unrelenting heat, the grey canopy above my head offered both a measure of relief and blissful anticipation of cooler weather and rain. Blessed be the clouds which hide the sun, I mumbled in a silent, personal prayer of thanksgiving.

The end of the Israeli summer was finally in sight. The pomegranates on the tree outside my porch were heavy with ripe, red fruit; the kids were busy with last minute preparations for school and the sounds of the shofar were in the air. In a few weeks, the New Year would be upon us.

Like the cloudy sky, Rosh Hashana – the Day of Judgement – is also “covered and hidden”. Bakeseh l’yom chageinu. Chazal tell us that bakeseh may refer to the word kisey – G-d’s divine Seat of Justice. But it can also refer to kisui – a cover for our sins as G-d sits upon His Throne of Mercy. And it reminds us that Rosh Hashana is the only holiday in our year when the moon is “covered” – hidden and invisible. (Most other chagim, holidays, take place when the moon is clearly visible). Last, Rosh Hashana is also “hidden” – i.e. not specifically mentioned – in the Torah so as not to call attention to our misdeeds at this hour of judgment.

In the past two weeks, five different grandchildren in our family had their eyes examined and each was delighted to hear that he or she needed a pair of glasses. (Silly kids! Little do they understand the blessings of natural, G-d given 20/20 vision!) Upon donning their new eye-opening accessories, one of the kids remarked on how intricate the patterns were on the leaves; he had never noticed them before. Another was taken up with the speckled pavement which he thought was very interesting. A third looked at his grandmother and suddenly saw the many wrinkles on her face! I explained that he should use his new found sight to notice good things, not disparaging ones, but I suppose he didn’t place a value judgment on wrinkles. He was just commenting on what he saw.

What we see in life is, of course, often subjective. As the children of Avraham Avinu we are entreated to view the world with an ayin tova – a good eye – and not with an ayin ra’ah – an evil eye – as did Bil’am Harasha. We are encouraged to seek the good, to judge favorably, to look upon our fellow Jews and the world at large with love and generosity.

But our vision is always cloudy. We can never discern all the differing possibilities in a given situation. Nor are we ever completely fair or thoroughly wise. We tend to observe the world through the prism of our own needs and desires, thus producing flawed conclusions. It behooves us to remember this in our daily dealings – with family, colleagues, friends. With parents, children, spouses. So much sorrow could be prevented in the world if people would only view things with an ayin tova, through a wider prism and rosier colored glasses, and remember those differing sides to every story

Yet seeing as how human beings have an innate desire to know and understand (undoubtedly a result of eating from the Tree of Knowledge!), limiting our vision is often a difficult challenge. So we are probably fortunate that there is so much which, like Rosh Hashana, is hidden or “covered” from us. What we don’t know and can’t see is often a blessing in disguise. Most of us don’t really want to know what the future will bring; better to live with optimism and hope for good things to come. A lack of total and all encompassing vision also brings us to the realization that we are limited creatures. Many things are beyond our comprehension or capabilities. We can only try our best, bend our heads in submission and leave the end results up to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. This kind of an attitude is guaranteed to lower one’s blood pressure and make for a more spiritual, caring and peaceful life.

Perhaps that’s also why Chazal taught that blessings only rest upon that which is hidden from our eyes. That which is out in the open, seemingly clear and understood, is always flawed and fraught with danger. In today’s world, revelation is the name of the game, but in the Torah’s eyes, the less “seen” (i.e. noticed) or said, the better. The more that is covered with a veil of modesty and silence, the more that remains private, pure and unsullied, the better off we all are. That’s why Keseh l’Yom Chageinu – the hidden aspect of Rosh Hashana – is a symbol for the day.

I hope my grandchildren’s new glasses remain clean and in place to help them see perceptively and cheerfully, with faith and generosity. And I hope they see beyond a few well earned wrinkles on their grandmother’s face. Ketiva v’chatima tova!

© 2008 Yaffa Ganz. Yaffa Ganz is the award winning author of more than forty Jewish juvenile titles including Sand and Stars – a 2000 year saga of Jewish history for teen readers. Her latest book – “A Different Dimension” published by Hamodia Publishers – is an anthology of essays on contemporary Jewish life.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.