Positive Vision - Day 54
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger
Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"
Day 54 - Sensitive Eyes - The Purity Required of a Jew
The late Mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshivah, R’Yerucham Levovitz, once visited Vilna. He was put up in a residence that faced a co-ed secular school, whose students ranged in age from sixteen to eighteen. Each morning he saw through his window the boys and girls arriving, joking and socializing as they entered the school. When he returned to the yeshivah he told his students what he had seen, and commented:
“These teens are presumably gaining knowledge, taking tests, acquiring degrees, and becoming experts in their field of choice. They are clearly learning. So I ask myself: What would happen if in our yeshivah of some 400 students even one girl would come to sit in the beis midrash? Could we continue to learn? Of course not! Her presence would completely undermine the learning and detract from our studies! How then do all those students attend mixed classes and continue their studies unperturbed!
“This surely points to the fact that Jews and our Torah are holy. Torah resonates within the neshamah of a Jew, and through Torah one connects with HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Holiness cannot tolerate tumah and coexist with it. Hence, even a single improper thought can interfere with an entire yeshivah. Secular knowledge evidently experiences no such conflict at all.”
The neshamah of a Jew and tumah are completely irreconcilable.
It is not surprising to find that tumah has a tangible impact upon the eyes of a Jew. R’ Moshe Shmuel Shapiro cites Targum Yonasan ben Uziel, who writes that Mashiach will have beautiful eyes because he will have never seen anything improper. Evidently, notes R’ Shapiro, what a Jew sees affects him even physically.
He adds, in this vein, that when Yaakov blessed Yosef he stated that Yosef is deserving of such blessings because he had not glanced at the girls who were vying for his attention in Egypt. R’ Moshe Shmuel asks: How did Yaakov know that Yosef had never looked? Although Yaakov was a prophet, prophecy informs a person only of that which pertains to him, and here it seemingly did not! He answers that Yaakov did not know this through prophecy but rather, simply by looking at Yosef’s face. He looked into Yosef’s eyes and saw nothing but kedushah and he knew that Yosef had withstood the nisayon.
Indeed, the first time Yaakov meets Yosef after their long separation, Yaakov says, “I can now die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.”
The Ohr HaChaim asks: Why did Yaakov not say this immediately when he saw the wagons that Yosef had sent him, which also proved that Yosef was still alive? Why did he wait until he saw “his face”?
He answers that Yaakov in fact believed that Yosef was alive, but was concerned about Yosef’s spiritual level, having spent so many years on his own in Egypt, the “ervas ha’aretz” (the nakedness of the Earth). By seeing his face, and the beauty and purity of Yosef’s eyes, Yaakov saw that Yosef was very much alive - radiating a life of kedushah.