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I once heard the Ponevezher Rav, Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman say to a potential donor that he no longer had the ability to sleep normally for a number of hours but he had not lost his ability to continue to dream. I thought about this last week after returning from my visit t to my opthamologist/retinologist who confirmed the fact that my eyesight is no longer what it once was. But I comforted myself by saying that I am grateful that my vision is still intact and active. For focus, of seeing acutely, and thinking in visionary terms are two different and distinct matters.
Most of our lives are spent in focusing on mundane and often petty problems that constantly plague us. That is the nature of current life, especially of the complex lives that modern society has thrust upon us. Because of the necessity of such intense and constant focus, vision and its constant companion of perspective are often missing.   
An understanding and wise heart is created by a sense of vision and not by sharp focus on detail. Vision tells one what one wishes to achieve in life, who one really is and who one wishes to be. It sets the goals of the game but it does not call the plays. That perforce is driven by focus, attention to detail.
But without vision that drives us, focus by itself can achieve little and yet vision somehow can outlive focus. Vision is what drives civilization forward whereas focus alone oftentimes is counterproductive and negative in nature and practical import.
In short, focus sees the trees while vision sees the forest. Most of the arguments and disagreements in the religious Jewish society are about issues that have long remained unsettled for generations if not even centuries and millennia. The argument about the place of secular studies in the lives of Torah students and their educational institutions dates back to Talmudic times at least.
I do not believe that there is anything new that our current generation can add to the argument. Focusing on it only increases the heat but adds very little light to the debate. Each section of religious Jewry will follow its own way. It is fruitless and wrong to say that any one side has the monopoly of accuracy or spirituality on this issue.
Vision should be to produce knowledgeable, observant, self-sustaining Jews who will be able to help build a stronger Jewish people. But focusing on the tactics as to how to accomplish this task and ignoring the end vision is self-destructive. Witness the current school battles in all sectors of religious Jewish society in Israel and the Diaspora as well.
Focus automatically creates division and disunion. It seeks out the differences, even if they are minute, within our society and uses these differences as its badge of self-identity. It allows us to say that one is not like “them” without having to say what one is really like by itself and its own standards.   
I think that a great deal of this attitude in religious Jewish society is a product of the techniques used in pursuing Talmudic studies from time immemorial.  The Talmudic text is posed and based on a question and answer format. It heaps contradictory opinions and traditions, one upon the other. In order to reconcile these variant statements, the Talmud searches out even the most minute of differences, of circumstances and of authorship, in order to explain away the apparent contradiction. This leads to intense focus.
The Talmud itself is aware of this trend and attempts to counteract it by introducing a sense of overall vision. It states that the contradictory opinions of the House of Shamai and of the House of Hillel are both correct and they are the words of the living God. Naturally, as a practical matter, we are bound to follow in our behavior only one of these opinions but neither opinion is wrong. That is the reflection of the vision of Torah in all of its seventy layers and innumerable spiritual and practical nuances.
Focus should never cancel vision but rather attempt to enhance it. But an education that emphasizes focus almost exclusively and rarely provides its students with a sense of overall vision will naturally produce more than its share of needless disputes and communal dysfunction. Focus divides and vision unites. It is not for naught that the prophets always prefaced their immortal words as being vision incarnate. As my optometrist one told me: “Better to be far sighted than near sighted.”
Shabbat shalom

Berel Wein    

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