Bilaam had only one eye, and all he saw with it was bad. Unfortunately, most
of us are a little like Bilaam: our perception of things is all too often one-dimensional,
and it's the negative side that occupies our field of vision.
The Gemora enjoins us to calculate the loss incurred in the performance of a
mitzvah versus its reward, and the reward for transgression versus the loss.
We see from this that the Sages understood that there is no such thing as unalloyed
good or bad in this world. Since the sin of Adam HaRishon, everything is
mixed. Therefore, every situation requires a careful calculation of good and bad.
One has to decide, on balance, the right thing to do.
Take Bilaam, for example. He's riding his donkey. The donkey strays from the
path, once, twice, three times. Finally, it crushes Bilaam's leg against the fence
and, in anger, he starts beating the animal. Asks the donkey: “What did I ever do
to you all these years, that you should treat me this way?” “If I had a sword,”
Bilaam responds, “I'd kill you right now!”
Now, this animal had been a faithful servant for years. But one day it's causing
him trouble, and all the years of faithful service are immediately forgotten. The
donkey was trying to point out to him the injustice of it. But that's how people
are. Somebody is your best friend for years; but if he fails you one time, suddenly
he's no good at all. All the years of friendship vanish and the one bad thing stands
in its place.
The Torah says that you should throw trefa to the dogs. The Daas Zekeinim
Baalei Tosafos explains that dogs are used to protect the sheep from predators.
If one of the flock was preyed upon and became a trefa, the dog was negligent
in his duty. We could understand if the dog were to be punished, but why a reward?
The answer is that, overall, the dog has been a reliable guardian of the flock.
One time, a wolf got through. Don't hold it against the dog for that one time. Rather,
the master should remember all the good work the dog has done and give him the
trefa to eat as a reward. All the more so for other people, that we shouldn't
hold that one disappointment against our employees, our friends and loved ones.
In Avos it says that one should judge “the whole person” favorably. Don't
just look at one aspect of the person's character. If you do that, you may find
fault and reject him. Look at the whole person and you surely will find good. You
can only retain a positive outlook if you consider the whole picture. Negativity
derives from fractionalizing, focusing on just one part of a situation or relationship.
Moshe Rabbeinu chose great men, the leaders of the tribes, to spy out the land.
the seforno observes that they came back and told the truth about eretz yisrael
along with their evil report. that enabled moshe to reject the latter and focus
on their initial admission that the land was good. lesser men, with the agenda of
discouraging an invasion, would have told nothing but lies. it takes a great person
to be against something and yet not blind himself to the good in it.
And, those who insist on seeing only the brighter side of life are equally mistaken.
If you're oblivious to problems, or pretend that there are none, if you walk through
the world starry-eyed and oblivious, you deserve a rude awakening..
Regarding the Shmittah year, the Torah says, “If you ask, 'What are we going to eat in the
seventh and eighth year of Shmittah,' HaShem says He'll bless the sixth
year with an abundance that will provide for three years.” But what if you don't
ask? Is there, then, no blessing? Some answer that, on the contrary, there is an
even greater blessing of abundance for those who do not question HaShem. But
I want to say the opposite. You only get the blessing if you do ask. If you don't
ask, it doesn't show trust in G-d, it shows naivete. You're supposed to ask, “If I'm not planting and harvesting, what am I going to
eat?” Only then should you say “I have bitachon, I trust that G-d will provide.”
Then you deserve a blessing.
But somebody who doesn't realize there's a problem–that person really
has a problem. You can't go through life like a flower child, thinking everything
is fine. That's why a person has two eyes: one to identify the problems, the other
to see their solutions.