Positive Vision - Day 31
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger
Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"
Day 31 - Out of Sight, Out of Mind - The Power of the Eyes
A father calls in his young son on Chol HaMoed Pesach and asks what he would like for his afikoman present.
"Money," responds the young boy.
The father looks at him quizzically and asks, "Why do you want money, Asher? Whatever item you wanted in the past we bought for you. Just tell us what you want."
The young boy looks down, and explains in a quiet voice.
"I want money to take a taxi to yeshivah because I don't like what I see on the bus."
Who was that young man? R' Asher Arieli, shlita, who grew up to be the esteemed maggid shiur in Mir Yerushalayim.
What we see has a profound impact upon us, and it was something the sensitive neshamah of a young Asher Arieli picked up instinctively despite his young years.
R Yaakov Galinsky, the famed and beloved maggid, related that the Chofetz Chaim would say, "What is a man? He is what he sees."
R' Yaakov relates this to the famous Chazal: Anyone who sees a sotah, a suspected adulteress, as she is publically humiliated should refrain from drinking wine.
Chazal are referring to a woman who is brought to the Beis HaMikdash because she is suspected of being unfaithful to her husband. She is treated in a humiliating fashion and made to drink special waters that miraculously determine whether she was in fact unfaithful. If she was, she dies in a most unusual and grotesque manner as her stomach bursts open.
Shortly after teaching us the laws of the sotah, the Torah teaches us the laws of a nazir, one who foreswears )among other things( drinking wine. Our Sages )Sotah 2a( explain that the passage of a sotah is juxtaposed to the passage of the nazir to teach that whoever observes the sotah's ordeal should refrain from drinking wine. Rashi explains that this is because wine brings one to immorality.
Now this seems counterintuitive.
Witnessing the sotah's ordeal would seem to serve as a powerful deterrent against engaging in immoral activity. It certainly should not encourage it! Yet this Gemara states that an observer of the sotah's punishment is more vulnerable to committing immorality and must therefore exercise greater caution by refraining from drinking wine. Apparently, seeing a woman go through this trial actually put the observer at greater risk of committing the sin, and he must take steps to minimize the risk factors by refraining from drinking wine.
Says R' Yaakov: We are what we see.
Something that you have never seen poses less of a threat than something you have seen, even where there have been awful consequences. True, the sotah has suffered, but the very fact that one has seen a person who committed this sin makes him or her more likely to fail too. The aveirah has entered the world of possibility.
Out of sight is out of mind, and conversely, that which is in sight is in your mind. Such is the power of our eyes. And that is why shmiras einayim is so essential.