double vision

There has been much discussion of Shemirath Eynayim lately. [See A Simple Jew's forum here, and an earlier post of mine, here.]

I just had a clarifying experience that helped me to understand the Baal Shem Tov's teaching, so I thought I would share it here. The Baal Shem Tov said that we should recognize that what we are attracted to is actually the godliness revealed within the object of our desire, not the object itself. This is really hard to internalize, as we have come to associate the attraction with the object, even particular attributes of that object.

So here's what happened:
I was walking into the building where I work, and a woman walked up on my left, I saw her out of the corner of my eye and already started to avert my gaze to the right. When my eyes shifted to the right I actually found a better view of the woman, being reflected in the glass door to my right. I was at a loss for what to do, I laughed.

Right then it hit me. I'm not worried about being attracted to the glass window. I'm worried about being attracted to the woman. But, now I could understand the Baal Shem Tov. Just like the reflection of the woman wasn't the source of the attraction, neither is the woman herself the source of the attraction.

If we stop to think about it, people getting excited about advertisements, magazines, television sets, or anything else, even the person in the flesh (pun intended) are all equally ridiculous when we understand what is really going on.

[ps. I work with all manner of Jews in all manner of dress, here in Yerushalayim. Obviously I look at my co-workers when I speak with them, but when I'm in a public place where I don't need to interact I try to avoid it. If someone comes up to ask a question or for directions, or if I see I can help someone, I will certainly regard them normally and this is what I was always taught. Derech Eretz demands acknowledging another person with kavod.]


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