Monday, February 21, 2011

The World is a Mirror

This is an old posting, but I would like to re-publish it now, and dedicate it to the rabbinical family in Sydney who are (once again) commencing legal action against other Jewish persons in a secular court.  "[Rabbis] Impeding the Redemption" again, and again, and again....

[extracted from "Not Just Stories" by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski M.D.]

Denial is a psychological term referring to a person's inability to see reality. Denial is a frequently occuring phenomenon, and is one of the many psychological defense mechanisms, whose function is to shield a person from an awareness that would cause him distress.

A very common form of denial is a person's inability to see his own character defects. The reason is obvious: awareness of the presence of this defect in oneself is too much for a person to bear. Yet unawareness of these defects will result in one's doing nothing to improve upon them. Even a dedicated soul-searching may fail to reveal one's own shortcomings, since denial obscures their existence from him.

The Baal Shem Tov said that G-d provided a way to circumvent this denial: "The world is a mirror" said the Baal Shem Tov. "The defects you see in others are really your own."

While denial prevents a person from seeing his own character defects, it does not prevent him from seeing defects in other people. Quite the contrary, we are experts at detecting faults in others. All we need to do, then, said the Baal Shem Tov, is to realise that these are but a reflection of our own shortcomings. We do not see defects in others that are non-existent in ourselves.

"Love covers all offenses" (Proverbs 10:12) has filtered down to the colloquial aphorism that "Love is blind". It is common knowledge that we may be oblivious to defects in someone we love, although they may be blatant to other observers. Just as we may not see that which we do not wish to see, so it is conversely true that we only see something which, for some reason, attracts our attention. The Baal Shem Tov states that when we see defects in others, the reason for this recognition is that, in one way or another, they represent our own defects.

This principle is a major dynamic in the effectiveness of group therapy. In treatment of some types of emotional disorders, group therapy may be far more effective than individual therapy. A therapist pointing out a particular character defect to a client may be rejected, with the patient's denial preventing the necessary insight. In a group session, the client is very likely to note this very defect in another group member, and the group may then help him realise that he too has this particular characteristic, and this is extremely effective in overcoming one's denial.

It is the persistence of denial that constitutes a major obstacle to therapy and corrective action.

Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch was receiving his chassidim, when he abruptly told his assistant to close the door and not allow anyone entry. Some of the chassidim, eager to understand the Rabbi's sudden desire for solitude, put their ears to the door and heard the Rabbi reciting Tehillim with heartrending tones.

The Rabbi later explained that whenever a chassid asks him for guidance to do teshuvah for a transgression; he immediately searches for that transgression within himself, according to the Baal Shem Tov's teaching that the world is a mirror, and had he not been guilty of the same thing, even in a much more diluted form, it would never have come to his attention. The discovery of an analogous defect within himself then allows him to make the necessary amends.

"When one chassid told me about something he had done wrong, I promptly began searching for a similar shortcoming in myself. However, I was unable to find it. This meant that I was deceiving myself, and that somewhere there was a dereliction of which I was unaware. Being oblivious of this would preclude my taking any corrective action, and I therefore had to pray intensely for Divine guidance to help me discover this defect in myself."

What a wonderful world it would be if every time we saw some defect in another person, we would do some soul-searching, and take corrective actions for self-improvement, rather than being critical of others and denoucing them.


  1. I also have a friend who is facing legal action in non-Torah court in Eretz Yisrael for a civil dispute between religious Jews. It is very sad. Thank you for calling attention to this issue.

  2. Comedian Dudley Moore interviews fellow comedian Peter Cook:

    Dudley: Have you learnt from your mistakes?

    Peter: Yes, and I can now repeat them perfectly!

  3. BLESSINGS. this exile is very long and any other people other than the jews would not have sustained the sufferings and progroms this long or this well. the court hearing reminds me of this story.:Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditshev saw a Yid smoking on Yom Kipper and asked him if he knew it was Yom Kipper today. The Yid answered affirmatively. "Maybe you don't realize that smoking is prohibited on Yom Kipper ?" Again, he said he knew. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditshev lifted up his holy eyes to heaven and exclaimed: "Ribono Shel Olam, look at your children, they won't lie on Yom Kippur, even if they smoke in public!"

    atleast we know they are taking it to a secular court, and they are not being hypocritical about it or keeping hatred within them. true, according to jewish law its wrong, and they are behaving like gentiles in a gentile court, but what is the lesson in it for us and me as well, as a believing gentile?
    perhaps before the prosecuting angels condemn them, up in Heaven, we can find something good about it like the rabbi above.