VIRGO 2: THE BINOCULARS OF FALSEHOOD
“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”~ Benjamin Franklin
The month of Elul is all about truth. It’s about taking an honest account about who we are and what we’ve done throughout the year. With Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur just around the corner, this truthful inquest into our selves will spare us certain judgment – we will be judged only for the things that we’ve forgotten to consider during the month. We need to ensure that we remember to look at EVERYTHING, no holding back, really get in there because whatever we awaken, whatever we remember, and whatever truth we DO look at DIRECTLY will not bring judgment to our lives.
One of the most important pillars of our spiritual work is the Tshuvah. The Tshuvah is a process of cleansing OURSELVES; “what I need to change”, “what I need to do better” or “what I didn’t do correctly.” We take stock of our selves, which essentially makes the Tshuvah a selfish process. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a pertinent aspect of Tshuvah, but what’s more important (especially in Elul) is to focus on HOW WE VIEW OTHER PEOPLE and not just “ME, MINE, I”.
We know that Virgos are meticulous and have a great eye for detail; they can walk into a room and see what’s missing. We do this with people too, so it becomes very easy to judge, and we know all too well of Virgo’s affinity to focus on imperfections and judge other people’s actions. So it is vital that during this month we exercise those tendencies and work towards — we have to force ourselves — making conscious decisions to focus on the good.
WE ARE ALL MADE OF GOOD and BAD. Sadly, we tend to focus on the BAD more often than not. We think about the bad, we talk about the bad in other people, and we judge them. But after the sin of Adam we know that there is not one person who contains only good or only bad or that a situation is only all positive or all negative. We know that in absolutely everything we have the ability to see both sides. You cannot cast a light without creating a shadow. Good and bad exist at the same time.
As I have said, it is a lot easier to judge others as opposed to our selves, and so during this month you have to ask yourself very honestly, “What is it that I choose to look at?”
Going back to the idea of my last post and looking through the binoculars… I have to share a parable from Rav Yehuda Leib Lazarov that can help us understand the tricks that the “negative side” – “the use of the binoculars” will play on us, as well as highlight your answer to the honest question, “What is it that I choose to look at?”
Once upon a time there was a simple farmer who filled his wagon with the crops of that year – the bundles of wheat were plentiful, and he wanted to put them in his barn. He opened the doors to the barn and pulled his horses by their reigns. The horses fit inside the barn, but the wagon got stuck. The wagon was overflowing with crops so that it simply could not fit through the doors. Uselessly, the farmer beat the horses in an attempt to get it all to fit through the doors, but of course the wagon did not budge.
At that moment a prankster walked by and asked, “Why do you hit your horses for no reason? Don’t you see that the crops cannot fit through the door?” The simple farmer turned to the prankster and asked, “What can I do?”
The prankster grinned and answered, “Buy these binoculars from me; they enlarge everything you see! When you look at the opening it will grow! That way you will be able to pull the wagon in without much difficulty.” Without blinking an eyelid the farmer bought the binoculars, and the prankster went on his way.
The farmer looked at the opening through the eyepiece of the binoculars, and lo and behold, the prankster was right! The opening was quite large. The farmer heaved on the horses’ reigns, but still they did not budge. Frustrated, he hit the horses again, and yet there was no movement.
Confused, he thought to himself, “If the opening is so large, WHY can’t the wagon fit through?” He hollered to the prankster: “Wait! Why is the wagon still stuck?” The prankster answered snidely, “You fool, don’t you understand? The opening is larger, but if you look at the crops with the same binoculars as the wagon, you will see that the crops have also grown larger!”
The farmer looked at the wheat through the reverse side of the binoculars, and he saw that it was true: The opening was larger, but so too were the crops. All was as it was before. He shouted out to the prankster, “You have not helped me at all. Take the binoculars and give me back my money!” But the prankster yelled back to him, “This is not so! When you look at the wheat, you should reverse the binoculars and look at it through the other side, which minimizes everything, and all will work out fine!”
The prankster waited and looked on as the farmer did as he had said, he turned the binoculars around and looked at the wheat. The farmer’s face beamed with happiness when he saw that indeed, the wheat had shrunk dramatically. The prankster quickly disappeared.
The farmer focused his gaze through the reverse side of the binoculars and once again tugged the reigns of the horses. They pulled, but to no avail. He whipped them, but nothing happened.
The farmer was dumbfounded; he could not understand what had transpired. He looked at the opening with the binoculars, and it was so large; then he reversed the binoculars and the wheat was so small. The opening is so large and the wheat is so small, and yet the wagon still does not go in . . .
(As I said before, he was a SIMPLE farmer)
Meanwhile a wiser man walked by and saw the farmer looking through the binoculars and whipping his horses for naught. He said to the simple farmer, “You fool, don’t you understand that the binoculars won’t change the reality?”
The farmer asked, “What, then, can I do?” And the wiser man answered, “It is really very simple! Remove the crops from the wagon so that the rest will fit through the opening with ease.”
The solution to remove the crops from the wagon seems really straightforward, but that isn’t the reason I share the story with you. I use this example to illustrate that when we hear stories about foolish people, we may ask ourselves, “How could anyone be so silly?” But that is not the point either. The point is to understand the parable, and understand that we are really the foolish ones when we look through the scope of the binoculars. We are the simple farmer.
There is a reason, unfortunately, why we are apathetic during the month of Elul: We are aware that we are not perfect. We all know that we are nearing the Day of Judgment with a wagon full of negative actions. Why do we think that we will be able to enter the Gates of Mercy with this negative load?
It is because the negative inclination has sold us magic binoculars – binoculars of Falsehood. On the one hand, they magnify the amount of mercy and forgiveness, and on the other hand they minimize our negative actions.
What can we do about this self-deception during this month? We can disregard the binoculars of falsehood, look truthfully, and be cautioned. We can understand that when we remove and cleanse the mountain of negative actions from the wagon through our intense spiritual work – Tshuvah – during the month, the wagon will pass through the Gates with ease!
1. Through which end of the binoculars do you view yourself?
2. Through which side of the binoculars do you view others?
3. Are you prepared to get rid of them all together and focus on cleansing your past actions?