By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
Once again, as in the previous two columns, I’d like to share with you another piece of sage advice from the ancient book of wisdom, Orchos Chaim l’HaRosh. The Rosh teaches us to consider the consequences of any course of action before embarking upon it and he eloquently adds the verse , “V’hachochom einov b’rosho – And the wise man has his eyes in his head.” At first glance, this seems to be an absurdity. Everyone has their eyes in their head; it’s not solely the anatomy of one who is wise. But, here is what the Rosh means. Most people react immediately to what they see. The wise person responds to what he thinks about what he saw. So it is only the man of wisdom whose eyes are in their head. The Rosh advises us to take this precaution, not be hasty with our reactions.
When Yaakov was on his deathbed, he told Reuven, “You were the first of my strength and as such you were slated to have both the monarchy and the priesthood. However, ‘Pachas k’mayim, al toser – You were hasty like water,’ and therefore you will not excel.” Just like if a dam ruptures, the water does not ponder whether it should rush out and cause a flood. Rather it bursts out without any concern. So too, since Reuven acted impetuously, he lost all privileges of leadership.
The Rosh is guiding us to always consider the consequences of our actions before making a move. This is the trait of the wise. As it says, Eiza hu chacham? Haroeh es hanolad – Who is the wise man? He who can see the results of his actions.” The fool behaves according to his instincts and chooses the path of immediate gratification. The Rosh cautions us not to be rash but rather to look before we leap. So, for example, when couples argue, one of the spouses can say something that will ‘win’ the fight but then he will be stuck with the ‘loser’ the entire evening. Not a pleasant prospect. With a modicum of foresight, one can react in a more conciliatory manner and save a nighttime of unhappiness. Similarly, a parent might scream at a child in frustration and, while the ability to vent affords temporary relief, the loss of the child’s respect or the damage to the tranquility of the home can have long lasting detrimental effects. As well, a nasty retort to a friend can give one a fleeting sense of relief but the damage of such a comment will linger in his colleague’s memory banks for decades. So too, in the financial arena, hasty risks can embroil one in years of regret. In public school, they do a drill with kindergarten children. They give them a choice of three M&Ms now or a handful a week from now. Most children opt for the immediately available three. They are not able to look ahead.
Successful life in Yiddishkeit is all about considering the consequences. Lashon hara leads to Gehenom. Giving away our hard earned money, to a charitable cause, leads to Gan Eden. Choosing a spouse solely because she has a beautiful face,or because he has a bulging financial portfolio, is possible recipe for marital disaster. Thus, we should try to train ourselves to think before we speak and to consider the consequences before we react. If we are retorting and responding in anger or in a bad mood, it is oh so true that “Haste makes waste.”
Perhaps this is one of the reasons that the Torah defines the location of the Teffilen on one’s head as, “Ltotafos bein einecha- Frontlets between the eyes”. Of course we know this means that this is on the area of the front of the head that is parallel to between the eyes. Why does the Torah describes the location as between the eyes? Perhaps it is teaching us that when we see with our eyes we should think with our head!
As we get in the habit of “seeing with the eyes in our head,” we will find that soon it will become second nature for us to consider our options carefully, especially before any important endeavor. In the merit of doing so, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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