Change Your Focus!

This past week we had the honour of hosting Miriam Peretz who tragically, lost 2 sons in the IDF as well as her husband from grief. In what was an incredibly inspiring address she encouraged everyone going through challenge to see the good we have in every day and to live every moment with joy. While this may be hard to consistently achieve, I believe we can bring greater joy in our lives through small steps, perhaps firstly, by changing our focus.

It’s interesting that the very words with which we open our daily prayers came out of the mouth of an evil anti-Semite: “How goodly are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel” (Bamidbar 24:5). It was the wicked sorcerer Balaam – about whom we will read this week in Shul – who was sent on a mission to curse the Jewish people, yet he uttered these beautiful words of blessing instead. What happened here? How were his curses suddenly transformed into blessings?

Perhaps it comes down to a shift in his focus that made him, if only for a moment, appreciate the goodness that was in front of him. 

The Torah tells us that “Balaam raised his eyes and saw Israel dwelling according to its tribes and the spirit of G-d came upon him.” (Bamidbar 24:2) In other words, when he raised his eyes, or shifted his focus to what lay in front of him he had an awakening. The commentators point out that Balaam saw how the Jews positioned their tents in a way where no opening of any man’s tent faced another’s. They had the utmost care for each other’s privacy and dignity. So when Balaam witnessed this, it caused him for that moment to break out of his evil trance of hatred to towards the Jews to appreciate that “It was good in G-d’s eyes to bless the Jews” (Bamidbar 24:1). It was at that point that G-d’s “spirit came upon him” and he could only utter the most beautiful blessings. So it seems that a sudden shift in his focus caused him to look upon the people from a different perspective – a good perspective – and when confronted with this goodness all he could do was bless.

How often do we find ourselves stuck in a quagmire of guilt, anxiety or depression? Do we sometimes see ourselves as helpless or without hope? Perhaps a slight change in our focus may help us see a way out of these difficult situations. So next time we find ourselves with this challenge, look upwards and try and see something positive in your life or in that situation. Maybe then a little bit of light and blessing will come in.

Wishing you and your families Shabbat Shalom and only blessing!

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Friedman