09/13/2013 01:03 pm ET Updated Nov 13, 2013

What's In Our Eyes?

A friend told me a peculiar dream the other day. She was looking in the mirror and noticed a speck of something in her eye. At first she thought it was just the normal debris of sleep, but then she saw it was black. She carefully took it out and it was a slimy creature that had been wound around the base of her eye. Fortunately it was not attached to brain tissue, but it was close. She looked at it objectively, wondering whether she should take it to an ophthalmologist or an ear, nose and throat specialist, or possibly to a scientist. Then she woke up.

Certainly a "creepy" dream. In contemplating it, I remembered a New Testament teaching in Jesus's Sermon on the Mount: "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own? .. . . First take out the log from your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7; also in Luke)

On the evening of September 13, continuing till an hour past sunset on the 14th, Jews the world over will be observing Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. This parable seems an appropriate portal to enter the spiritual work of that day.

Virtually all scriptures have a teaching similar to "Judge not that you be not judged," the principle that Jesus is elucidating in his metaphor. Indeed, the Jewish teaching is that you cannot go into Yom Kippur without first forgiving those who have hurt you, and asking for forgiveness from those you have harmed. The way you judge other people will be reflected in the way G-d sees you on that holy day.

The dream has the same message, but brings it into intimate focus by making it a mirror image: looking at your brother's eye IS looking in your own eye, and vice versa. This brings it down to earth. We will be seen in the cosmic perspective exactly the way we are looking at others in our daily lives.

This dream also led me to reflect on the world situation. I remember thinking, when it seemed we were on the verge of war at the time of Rosh Hashanah in early September, that no time of year is good for war, but this is an extremely bad time. I was so relieved that our President decided to take the matter to Congress. And this in turn gave time not only for Americans, but for the world, to reflect, to look at ourselves in the mirror, to ask how this situation can be healed.

In the dream, the critter was removed before the brain was damaged -- but what a close call! Now, the cosmic doctors have to be consulted. Let us seek out the wisdom of all our traditions to come to better solutions and deeper levels of mutual understanding.

Taking one day a year to remove ourselves from the world in order to undertake deep reflection is a very good thing. Continuing that reflection on a daily basis is even better. And we should remember, "reflection" means looking in the mirror -- and seeing there not only our self-image, but the face of our brother who has, indeed, the same struggles and the same glory as we do.