Windows provide distance, the ability to see events from a removed, safe vantage point.
I am blessed in my office with three large southern exposure windows. Rare is the day that I don’t rotate my chair 90 degrees, taking a short break from whatever I am doing, and stare out onto Warwick Avenue. I can watch the Robbins Hebrew Academy students head home from school or our shul’s neighbours pull out of their driveways. I’ve lost track of the numbers of vehicles I’ve seen drive the wrong way down the one-way street. Once I noticed a dog wandering with a broken leash. I coaxed her into my office and called animal services.
The window serves as a barrier separating the controlled environment of my office from the chaos of the world. But it is a permeable boundary. I see what happens. I am drawn to the outside world, away from the sacred environs of the synagogue.
The vantage from inside to out can provide a level of wisdom. Abimelekh takes Rebecca into his household following assurances that she is Isaac’s sister, though she is in fact Isaac’s wife. It is from his window that Abimelekh ultimately views Isaac interacting with Rebecca in such a way that exposes their true relationship. He is able to see what no one else can see. With his newly acquired knowledge, he releases Rebecca from his custody and saves his kin from the potential cosmic punishment of sleeping with a married woman.
Michal, however, looks out her window and misinterprets what is happening on the streets below. Her husband King David has returned from successful battle with the Ark of the Covenant in tow. David leaps and dances with joy, which Michal interprets and claims is done inappropriately in front of servants. David retorts that he is dancing before God and Michal is punished for her words.
Windows provide distance, the ability to see events from a removed, safe vantage point. Though providing context, that very distance can also lead to misinterpretation.
In the right light, upon gazing out my windows, I see my own reflection. It is a reminder to always remember my true self when looking out at the world.
When Joseph is seduced by Potiphar’s wife, our sages teach that he glances out the window and sees not his reflection but that of his father, Jacob. There is just enough distortion and just enough familial resemblance for Jacob to stare at Joseph while Joseph is amidst a physio-spiritual crisis. It is that glare that leads to Joseph’s refusal of Mrs. Potiphar’s advances.
When we each look out our own windows, at home or at work, what do we see? Are we high above with a wisdom that only distance can provide? Are we so far removed from the action that we misinterpret what is happening? As we make judgments and decisions, are we able to be self-reflective, allowing our best selves and the teachings of our ancestors to permeate our mind and soul?