Positive Vision (Pirkei Avot 4:20)

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Rabbi said: Do not look at the vessel; rather look at what is inside. There is a new vessel that is filled with aged, vintage wine; and there is an old container that is completely empty – it contains not even a scent of new wine.

It is human nature to associate the quality of a product with the packaging. For instance, we may see an old jug and assume that it is filled with finely, aged wine. On the other hand, we believe that a new jug must be filled with recently pressed, sharp wine. However, the old jug may just as easily contain new, unrefined wine; while the new jug may be filled with mature, vintage wine.

The same idea applies to human relations. Assessing the value of people based on their bodily stature or appearance can be quite misleading. Regardless, of the powerful urges of human nature that draws our attention to the external façade, we should be aware that the body does not tell the story of one’s inner worth.

Rather, we should look to the character of the individual to discover their true essence. What special spiritual attributes do they possess? Examine their moral fiber, their generosity, kindness, and sensitivity to others. These internal positive traits and others like them combine to make the person special and worthy.

In addition, we should consider if the person has wisdom of  Torah or appreciation for Torah values and ideals. The beauty of Torah will radiate holiness into his deeds and thoughts. This perspective, of looking at the treasures within, will help us discover the endless resource of goodness and light that resides in every person.

Since every person is created in the Likeness of HaShem, every person is an entity of goodness. If we focus on the good parts in others, we will see them in a positive light, and foster much love and partnership within our community (based on the commentary of  Rashi to Pirkei Avos).

Implement: When you speak with a friend, consciously focus on their good points.

Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Zvi Miller and the Salant Foundation

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