Positive Vision - Day 31
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger
Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"
Day 30 - The Emerald City - Seeing What Is There
The Gemara in Makkos expounds the verse in Yeshayah, One who closes his eyes from seeing evil, as referring to one who carefully guards his eyes from improper sights. The reward for doing so is mentioned in the following verse: He shall dwell on high.
Commenting on this Gemara, the Taharas HaKodesh writes:
He will not reside in the Future among common men, but instead will inhabit the loftiest Heavens together with the righteous and holy men upon whom the entire world rests.
Taharas HaKodesh then adds:
The next verse states: "Rocky fortresses shall be his fortress," which the Targum renders: בית מקדשא תסבע נפשיה , "His nefesh will be satiated with the Beis HaMikdash." Apparently, not everyone will merit to see the rebuilt Beis HaMikdash. Only one who guards his eyes will. But not only will he see it; his soul itself will feel its radiating kedushah.
Let's make this real.
Mashiach has arrived and it is time to be oleh regel, to go up to the Beis HaMikdash for Yom Tov and bring the necessary offering. So you walk down the block to the neighbor who owns a 15-passenger van. Most of his children have already married and moved away so he has seats available. You ask if you can hitch a ride to Yerushalayim [to avoid the parking nightmare]. He agrees and you join him for the pilgrimage.There is a great anticipation in the van as it first approaches the walls of Yerushalayim; the feeling builds as you proceed through the city gates and reach the Har HaBayis. You go to the mikveh, get dressed, and walk with him to the Beis HaMikdash. The excitement is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Together you proceed toward the gates, walk through and then ... nothing. The place is barren. There is absolutely nothing to be seen except the usual rocks and dirt. In shock and confusion you turn to your neighbor, and you see him standing there with the most awestruck, enthralled look on his face. He turns to you with a smile and whispers, "Isn't this the most beautiful sight you have ever seen?!" - and you have absolutely no idea what he is talking about!
It is difficult to assess how literally we should interpret the Taharas HaKodesh's words, but this much is clear: The experience of one who guards his eyes will be completely different from that of one who does not. And it will remain so eternally, because once Mashiach arrives there is no turning back. Teshuvah is no longer a possibility.
Let's make sure that our eyes will in fact be able to see Hashem's return.
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.