Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah–Shoftim

The eyes are the gateways to the soul. This metaphor is so well known that it almost qualifies as a cliché. That said, it is still the absolute truth. I remember telling a friend how troubled I was to see the smile on his face belied by the deep sadness in his eyes. More vividly, I remember the first time I watched my oldest child’s eyes as she first learned to walk. Confusion and even a little frustration covered her face even while her eyes were wildly open with excitement and wonder. We have all seen (or experienced) the moments when someone is talking, and the “listener” sits there, glassy-eyed and unresponsive. Our eyes tell the world all that really happens inside us, they are more honest than any words our mouths can speak. In 1975, the Eagles offered us a popular song, “You can’t hide your lying eyes.” One of the great truths that one gleans from the song is that no matter how hard we try, not only can’t we hide the truth from others; we ultimately cannot hide it from ourselves. We go to great lengths to hide behind truths to which we don’t want to admit or facades that we hope will fool everyone else. Our eyes speak the truth.

This week’s parashah begins, “Appoint judges and guards for your gates.” Literally, in the ancient world, all matters of judicial review took place at the city gates. The gates were the entry place that protected the entire life of the city. If the gates were shut tight, life stifled inside. As the gates lay open, a free interchange with the outside world took place. One entering the gates could always tell the ethical demeanor of the city by the way in which the judges dispensed justice and the guards engaged people coming and going.

The human eye serves in much the same capacity. We know how welcome we are or are not as we look into each other’s eyes. We know whether or not we touch someone’s life by the way in which they look back at us. The Torah instructs us to appoint these judges; to be intentional both about how we look at each other and how we invoke integrity in facing the truths that dwell within each of us.

We need to default to kindness in the way we judge each other. We need to presume innate goodness first, even when we can see brokenness before us. If we help people see their own dignity, it will help lift how they see themselves.

At the same time, we need, to be honest with ourselves. We need to be able to reach for help when we are in need. We need to be secure enough with who we are to be equally authentic with others. They will see our deception as they look in our eyes.

I teach that the only way in which we can see God is to look into each other’s eyes. Where we are honest internally, that integrity shines as we look to each other. That sparkle is the reflection of God staring back. Shabbat Shalom.