Thursday, June 20, 2013

ki ayin b'ayin yiru b'shuv Hashem Tzion -- learning how to see

I think a little background is needed to really get the torah of the Sefas Emes on this week’s parsha:

Vatipackahna einei she’neyhem…”  After their sin, the Torah tells us that Adam and Chavah’s eyes were opened and they were embarrassed by their own nakedness.  Surely Adam and Chavah did not walk around with their eyes closed beforehand –- why didn’t the pasuk just tell us that they were embarrassed, they attained a different type of knowledge, etc.  What does it mean to say that their eyes were opened? 

The Chasam Sofer quotes his rebbe, the Hafla’ah, as explaining that we have two sets of eyes: we have physical outer eyes that we are all used to using, but we also have an inner set of eyes, ruchniyus-dik eyes, that allow us to see inner spiritual pnimiyus of the world.  Depending on which set of eyes you use to view the world, you end up seeing a very different place.

The catch is that when choosing which eyes to use, it’s an either/or option.  If our inner, ruchniyus eyes are open and we use those eyes to see the world, our outer eyes must remain closed.  If we choose to use those outer physical eyes and see physical and materialistic things, the inner eye that is sensitive to ruchniyus will squint and close.

Adam and Chavah were created to use their inner, spiritual eyes to see the world.  Sin caused those eyes to close, and at the same time, "vatipacahna einei she’neyhem,” their physical eyes were opened, and the world has never looked the same since.

The twelve months of the year correspond to the twelve shevatim.  According to one view, the order starts with Nisan and sheivet Yehudah and follows the order of the degalim in the midbar.  The month of Tamuz corresponds to the fourth sheivet in the degalim, the tribe of Reuvain.  Reuvain’s name comes from Leah’s saying, “Ra’ah Hashem is onyi,” Hashem saw my pain.  The month of Tamuz, the month of Reuvain, explains the Bnei Yisascher at length, is all about what we see and how we see.

The meraglim, who Moshe sent to go see the land, came back during Tamuz and gave their report.  The mefoshim struggle to discover exactly where they sinned – it seems that every word in their report was true.  And indeed it was – so long as the land was looked at only with the outer eyes.  V’n’hi b’eineinu k’chagavim, v’kein hayinu b’eineihem,” “We were in our eyes like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.” (13:33)  What eyes in the Torah talking about?  Surely not the inner eyes of ruchniyus.  The error of the spies was in closing those inner eyes and instead seeing the world only through the outer eyes, the eyes that see only see the physical, materialistic world.  What a scary and false picture they saw when they looked at Eretz Yisrael only with those eyes!  They never saw the true picture, the picture you can see only if you close those outer eyes and open the inner ones.

And now we can get to the Sefas Emes.  In our parsha, Bnei Yisrael are on the right track again, headed to Eretz Yisrael.  Balak hires Bilam to stop them (see Shem m’Shmuel).  He reports that Bnei Yisrael are encroaching on his territory, “Vayichas es ein ha’aretz,” they covered the "eye of the land."  What a strange expression!  Here’s the Sefas Emes’ explanation (first piece in 5632), and it’s worth getting it word for word – “Hi histaklus artziyus, she’Bnei Yisrael hei’iru l’hiyos ha’reiya rak el ha’pnimiyus b’kol davar, u’lvateil histaklus chitzoni, mah she’nireh lichoreh b’ein gashmi…”  Bnei Yisrael covered the “ein artziyus,” the physical eye, the eye that only sees the superficial, the eye that sees only the material world, and they opened their eyes to the pnimiyus in everything around them (the S.A. has a number of pieces on the parsha that are variations on this theme).  Balak was saying, "They just don’t see things the way we do.  We don’t see eye to eye with them."

The Midrash comments that it would be better if the wicked were blind, as we find so often evil associated with their seeing – “VaYiru Bnei Elokim…” (Braishis 6), “Va’yar Cham avi Kena’an…” (Brashis 9), “Vayiru osah sarei Pharoah…” (Braishis 12), and finally our parsha, “Va’yar Balak…”  When you see with the outside eyes, bad things are bound to follow. 

Bilam is described as "s'sum ha'ayim," which according to some means blind in one eye, but according to the Targum means he was able to see well. Perhaps both may be true: Bilam, the navi of the umos, was partially blind to the outside world, and as a result, his inner eye was open to see what others could not.

Perhaps this explains why, as Rashi explains, Bilam is told that he will never overcome Bnei Yisrael, as they celebrate the three regalim.  Why is is specifically the mitzvah of celebrating the regalim that thwarts Bilam?  Because the mitzvah of aliya la'regel involves coming "lei'raos lifnei Hashem," to be seen by Hashem, and as Chazal teach us, a person comes to the Mikdash to see as much as he comes to be seen.  Aliya la'regel is all about absorbing a vision of kedusha, and that is what Bilam was blind to.

So we have to learn to see the world in the right way.  We have to learn to use our inner eyes more and close the outer eyes that give us the wrong messages.  We have to open the eyes, the real eyes, of the world.  If we do that, instead of Tamuz being the start of three weeks marking churban, we will merit to see “ain b’ayin yiru b’shuv Hashem Tzion…”  (Yeshayahu 52).  To return to the Hafla’ah we started with, he asks what “ayin b’ayin” means – we don’t have eyes within our eyes, do we?  The answer is that yes, we do – these are the inner spiritual eyes that are deep within us, behind the physical eyes that give us our vision.  I saw a horrible letter to the editor of a Jewish newspaper last week asking why we would want to live in Eretz Yisrael with all the problems that are there.  That’s what happens when you look at things with the outer eye only.  If only that person would open their real eyes, the one’s inside, they would see the tremendous beauty of Eretz Yisrael and the process of geulah that is already underway.  If we start seeing “ayin b’ayin,” then we will surely see “b’shuv Hashem Tzion.”

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