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The Blessing and Virtue of Cross-Eye

The Blessing and Virtue of Cross-Eye

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Have you ever wondered why many of our body parts were created in pairs?

Seriously. Think about it for a moment.

Is there really a need for two eyes, ears, arms, legs, and nostrils?

Couldn't we just as easily have been produced with a surround sound system instead of the goofy, floppy things stuck to our heads we call ears? And why couldn't we just have an all-seeing, single rotating eyeball, instead of the stationary two?

If two hands are there for multitasking, three or four seem more effective.

And while two nostrils are absolutely critical for survival when one lane jams with traffic due to an overzealous cold (if you catch the drift), a simple solution would be to create one nostril and no colds!

There is no excess in the divine economyI'm not just playing devil's advocate here. Our sages teach that there is no excess in the divine economy; G‑d is precise and calculated when it comes to creation.

Hence, there must be a reason for the many twosomes that make up our body.

Right and Left

The Kabbalah teaches that the words "right" and "left" not only describe opposite directions, they also represent two contrasting ideas, perspectives, emotions and attitudes.

The right side symbolizes the attributes of giving and kindness of the no-holds-barred type, while left represents judgment, restraint, and severity.

On the emotional level, right embodies love, and left represents discipline.

Love that isn't guided can be reckless, even dangerousUnrestrained kindness can be overwhelming for the recipient, and love that isn't guided can be reckless, even dangerous.

Too much control, conversely, stifles creativity and growth. Too much discipline dries the juice of life, and too many calculations leave opportunities untapped.

The definition of success, on so many levels, is the healthy balance and partnership between the two.

Parenthetically, the Kabbalists explain that most people are born with stronger right arms to reflect and highlight the fact that G‑d created our world with a stronger "right arm," that is, predominantly with kindness. Therefore, teaches the Talmud,1 "A person should always draw people closer by means of his right hand and push them aside with his left hand."

And so, if we were created with one eye alone, if it were the "right" type of eye, we'd only see the good in everyone and everything we encountered. We'd see the world, every circumstance and all people from an idealistic place, from a utopian platform.

The problem is that devastating world events could then take on positive meaning; evil people and actions would be embraced and understood.

If there is no judgement, everyone is innocent. There are no enemies, only friendsIf there is no judgment, everyone is innocent. There are no enemies, only friends; iniquity doesn't exist, only righteousness.

Aside from the lie of such a reality – incidentally, the word utopia comes from the Greek οὐ (not) and τόπος (place), which indicates that the word's creator did not consider such an ideal place to be realistically possible – this type of mindset and worldview can be downright dangerous, facilitating a world where crime runs rampant and unchecked.

The prospect of left-eye vision alone, and the world it would engender, is equally if not more disturbing!

Therefore we were created with dualities, with more dimensions than one. Far from causing confusion, this gift of G‑d facilitates cohesion. Through the paradox of right and left, our vision is broadened, deepened.

If we were created one-dimensional, we'd see things as black or white, in absolutist terms, as one way or the other. We wouldn't have the capacity to perceive things from different angles.

We also wouldn't be able to understand people dissimilar to ourselves; we couldn't relate to them or appreciate their differences. The world would be split into two groups, as opposed to the billions of unique individuals it thankfully possesses, each with their personalized perspective.

Eye and You

Another major benefit of our twofold nature, symbolized by our many twin features, is that it allows us to focus our respective viewpoints on different places at different times.

For example, if I could only see right-eyed, while those with failings would benefit from my lack of judgment, my own shortcomings would never grow tall. I would cut myself the same slack I cut everyone else. And the same with those I am responsible for. If I only see goodness, I ensure that so much remains bad.

But if I was born a "lefty," while that would help me work my way towards perfection through self-analysis and self-discipline, it seems impossible that my harshness would not find its way into my dealings with others. The way I'd see and deal with myself would be reflected in how I saw and dealt with others.

Having two eyes allows us to look at others primarily with our left eye closedThus, having two eyes allows us to look at others primarily with our left eye closed, and at ourselves with both eyes open—the left one just a bit more open.

(Looking at ourselves with no generosity can be destructive as well. Just imagine scrutinizing yourself the entire day! As one Chassidic saying goes, "Just as one must be aware of their vices, they must be aware of their virtues.")

And the same is with our two ears; with our right ear we're meant to welcome the praise of others and allow exaggerated tales of good qualities in other people to get by; with our left ear we are obligated to challenge the negative things we hear about others.

The rule of thumb (whichever one) is that the "right" attitude should generally be directed at others, and the "left" approach saved for ourselves (to invite critique and the like).

The following story is an example of our inherent dichotomy put to good use.

At one point, it became increasingly trendy for businessmen to wear socks that matched their ties. At a farbrengen (Chassidic gathering), the Rebbe had a good laugh about this fad, pointing out the obsession with materialism this style represented.

"And if one's socks don't match their tie on a given day, is he any less of a person?"

A short time after the farbrengen, Rabbi Hershel Pikar, a Chassidic businessman, brought a non-Orthodox business acquaintance that was having financial difficulties to visit the Rebbe for a blessing.

This individual happened to sell ties for a living, but competition had gotten the better of him.

After explaining his predicament to the Rebbe, the Rebbe gave him the following advice.

"Instead of selling just ties, why don't you sell matching sets of socks and ties, they say it's currently quite fashionable…"

Judges and Officers

The above provides an added layer of meaning to the verse, "You shall establish judges and law enforcement officials for yourself at all the gates of your cities that G‑d, your G‑d, is giving you, for your tribes, and they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment."2

What we ingest, hear and see is the product of our choice"All your cities," according to one Biblical commentator, is a reference to the faculties and senses that "G‑d has given you." "The gates," then, refer to the entry points of those "cities," namely our eyes, ears, nose and mouth, without whose permission, admission is barred. By and large, what we ingest, hear and see is the product of our choice. "You shall establish judges" is a directive to choose carefully, to pass judgment and provide entry to all visitors only after objectively weighing all of the evidence.

More to the point of our discussion, "You shall establish judges," is also an instruction to approach others without bias or preconceived perceptions. We must take ourselves out of the picture, like a judge in a court of law, when dealing with others or reviewing ourselves. Which eye or ear to use and when must be decided by the impartial judge Reason, not the passionate and subjective advocate called emotion.

The "law enforcement officials" mentioned in the verse are the trained, professional officers we each possess that are sometimes necessary to enforce the law when a heated protest is triggered by the verdict.3

P.S. An entitlement included in the legal codes and constitutions of many countries is the golden rule of "Innocent until proven guilty."

Order in the court!

Footnotes
1.

Sotah 47.

3.

Based on the Rebbe's teachings, Shabbat Parshat Shoftim 5751 (1991).

Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson is the rabbi of Beit Baruch and executive director of Chabad of Belgravia, London, where he lives with his wife, Chana, and children.
Mendel was an editor at the Judaism Website—Chabad.org, and is also the author of the popular books Seeds of Wisdom and A Time to Heal.
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Anonymous Camarillo, CA August 12, 2010

Eyes If you close (or cover) one eye or the other, things do not look very different (if they do, you may need new glasses). You do not see only the good when you use one eye and only the bad when you use the other eye.

However, everything looks flat, two dimensional. Without two eyes, you lack "depth perception".

This is why we have two eyes. So that we can tell how far away things are or how close they are. Reply

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