Ayen Tov – A Good Eye

A Our strength in overcoming challenges depends on our ability to focus on and constantly remind ourselves of the truth that will be revealed in the World to Come. With this in mind, we can overcome the transient deceptions which we constantly encounter in Olam Hazeh, this physical world which epitomizes and breeds emptiness and futility.
Our life may be described as a chain of disappointing ventures and turn of events. Many days, most of our hopes and potential achievements are dashed; and yet we are still considered lucky, since so many people have simply stopped hoping and aspiring for change, growth and success. Our spiritual disappointments occur because we forget about the only reason why we are placed in this world, and that is to purify our souls and thereby merit to enjoy eternal pleasure in Olam Habah, the World to Come.
So, if “forgetting” is the cause of our failures, then “remembering” ultimately leads us to accomplishment. Essentially, our effort in this world should be focused on repeatedly reminding ourselves about Olam Habah. The “now and here” reality of Olam Hazeh is very tangible, blocking us from the true reality of Hashem, and this calls upon us to exercise our mental capacity to remember Hashem and the trueness of Olam Habah. A good and healthy spiritual memory is all we need to cope with and pass through the present world.
Q We all believe in the existence of the World to Come, but we have trouble remembering it. What lies behind our tendency to forget about Olam Habah and get carried away with and swept under the challenges of this World?
A Yes, we tend to forget why we are here, but the reason for this is not for lack of reminders. Hashem plans and plants cues all along the way which are hidden in the words we speak, the thoughts we think and in our very actions. Hashem leads every person, every single day, through myriad twists and turns of events, only in order that we should understand the utter uselessness of this world, and this is what brings us to remind ourselves of the World to Come. If we see beyond that which seems to be spontaneous occurrences, we will come to recognize Hashem’s orchestration behind all happenings around us and to us.
The cause of our forgetfulness, and the reason why we miss the signals Hashem sends us, is a bad trait called “Ra Ayen”, literally meaning a bad eye and symbolically referring to the jealousy that rears its ugly green head every time one notices that his peer is more successful than himself. This bad middah is known to shrink one’s heart physically and spiritually, and it causes one’s other senses and insights to die out, specifically the memory of Olam Habah. This is simply understood, as jealousy and selfishness are closely related; a self-centered approach is tantamount to living one’s life alone, to thinking and living for oneself, and to the inability to raise one’s head and think about the real truth that matters.
Running away from jealousy and selfishness requires subduing Ta’avas Ha’nitzachon, our inherent wish to succeed and exceed our peers. Rebbi Nachman says (in Sefer Hamiddos), “Mi shehu natzchan bah lidei shikcha” – a contentious person, one who always needs to outdo his friends, encounters forgetfulness, because his evil inclination leads him to forget about Olam Habah.
Conversely, one who has a “good eye” loves his fellow Jews and wants them to be successful. In turn, he does not lose sight of the ultimate goal in life, i.e. reaching Olam Habah.
Q How is it possible to conquer the bad trait of “ra ayen”?
A In order to subjugate the “ra ayen”, we must identify the shoresh (the source) of an “ayen tov”, a good eye. And as we are looking for the source of a good eye, we might as well look for the all-encompassing basis of retaining the spiritual memory of Olam Habah. The shoresh of remembering Olam Habah is generated by Eretz Yisroel’s kedushah and by the holiness of Yerushalayim and the Bais Hamikdash. The Bais Hamikdash was the ultimate place for remembering Olam Habah because permission was granted there to pronounce Hashem’s great name (see Rashi, Shemos 20: 21).
The Bais Hamikdash’s holiness proliferated and spread to all of humanity, to all places in the world and to all the days of the year, so that a person was always able to grasp the clues and reminders Hashem sent him as messages to return to Him. This is the meaning of “vehayu ainei velibi sham” (Melachim I 9: 3) – “My eyes and heart will be there”, says Hashem. Hashem’s eyes are there, on the Bais Hamikdash. That is why Hashem’s dwelling place is instrumental in easily rectifying a “ra ayen”, transforming it into a good eye and thereby enlivening one’s heart with spiritual vitality.
Before the churban Bais Hamikdash, the bad trait of ra ayen took strong root in klal Yisroel and brought about spiritual forgetfulness to such an extent that Jews sinned without repenting, until the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed. The fact that the Bais Hamikdash is still in ruins today shows us that we have not yet conquered the middah of ra ayen, and we have trouble reminding ourselves of Olam Habah.
Therefore, we ought to lament and bemoan our spiritually-poor lot during these days of Bein Ha’metzarim, as it says, “My eye, my eye, runs water” (Eicha 1: 16). The tears of our eyes cleanse us from the poison of ra ayen, and thereby we merit spiritual memory. Crying real tears does not come easily for everyone, but at least we should remember what we have lost due to the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash. We should picture how our existence centered on and revolved around the kedushah of the Bais Hamikdash – how entirely different that kind of life was compared with our poor reality today! Thinking about the Bais Hamikdash and what we are now lacking opens up our hearts and mouths so that we can start talking about and expressing our longings and desires to Hashem. Expressing our yearning is by itself an act that essentially triggers the spiritual memory of Olam Habah, and it thus gives us the strength to pass successfully through the vestibule of Olam Hazeh.
The Kinos of Bein Ha’metzarim and Tisha B’Av, therefore, are not only about crying and aveilos; but rather they are an expression of our longing and the pain of our difficulty in connecting to Hashem. Our cries convey our deepest wishes, as Megillas Eichah indeed ends: “Hashiveinu Hashem eilecha” – “Return us, Hashem, to You!”

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