In Western religions God cannot be seen. God is beyond the universe; God is not visible. Making a visual representation of God in Judaism is the paradigm case of idolatry. We do not see God; we hear Him.

Yet many of us make judgments of character on the basis of physical appearance, and appearances mislead. We also have a tendency to notice facts that confirm our pre-existing attitudes, and disregard those that challenge or disconfirm them.

Many people who are optimists and pessimists, believers and atheists tend to find that what happens, or what is discovered, proves that they were right all along. We select the evidence that supports our prior convictions. We see what we expect to see.


Going back to the Bible, there is a narrative where 12 Israelites go to spy on the enemy. The spies said: “We were in our eyes like grasshoppers and so we were in their eyes.” They were entitled to say the first half of the sentence. It described how they felt. But they were not entitled to say the second half. They had no idea how they appeared in the eyes of the inhabitants of the land. They merely inferred it, and they were wrong. They assumed that others saw them as they saw themselves. They projected their sense of inadequacy onto the external world.

In psychology, we are told there is no such thing as “innocent eyes”. We do not simply see what is there. We select and interpret what is there. We notice some things but not others. We are, for the most part, unaware of this. The result is that we believe what we see or what we think we see.

Religion makes the point that the heart determines what the eye sees. Sometimes we fail to separate our perceptions from our fears. Seeing is not always a form of knowing. Sometimes you have to listen, not just look.

First we must hear with our heart before we can learn to see with our eyes. your social media marketing partner
Rabbi Sally - The People's Rabbi