“Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.” — Deuteronomy 3:25
Prayer in Judaism is defined as “the work of the heart,” which profoundly changes the nature of prayer from one of entreating God to an act that transforms who we are – not what God does. Our devotions throughout this month are focused on different facets of prayer and what lessons we can learn about the power of our prayers. For more inspirational teachings about prayer, download our free booklet, The Work of the Heart.
The world is a big place. It’s over 300-million square miles of oceans and continents. Not only is the world a large place, it’s also a complex one filled with different species, plant life, and tiny organisms. There are a multitude of cultures, languages, political systems, and ideologies. Thousands of years of history have contributed to the world we know today.
Can any one person, living in one particular time and place, understand the workings of the world? Are we fit to judge it?
Ecclesiastes 8:17 answers: “No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun.” We are not in a position to understand our world. With our very limited knowledge, we are not equipped to make any judgments.
The Jewish sages further teach that every individual is a world unto himself. We each have unique characteristics and personality traits. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. We have our own beliefs, dreams, and fears. Each of us has a history that has made us who we are today.
So can anyone possibly judge another person? Can one person at any given time and place possibly possess enough knowledge about another person in order to make an accurate assessment?
The answer, of course, is no. Just as we lack knowledge of our world, we can never fully comprehend another individual. However, while we cannot judge anyone else, we can choose what we see. We can focus on the negative, or we can focus on the good.
In the verse above, Moses pleaded with God to be allowed into Israel. He prayed: “Let me go over and see the good land . . .” The sages ask: Why did Moses specify that he wanted to see the land? Surely if he went into it, he would automatically see it.
The sages explain that Moses wasn’t just asking to visit the land – he was asking to see the good in the land. There is good and bad in everything, and we all have to constantly pray to see the good — in our world, in our lives, and in the people around us.
Let that be our prayer today —that we will see the good in everyone we meet. Consider the words from an ancient Jewish prayer that can still be read today on the wall of Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem: “May it be Your will, God, that I not find faults in anyone. Through Your mercy, may I always merit to judge others favorably; may You bestow upon me the intelligence to understand how to search for and find redeeming factors, strengths, and virtues, in my fellow man, at all times.” Amen.
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