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לימוד תורה

Seeing reality in 3D

Parasha and its implementation – Parashat Re'eh – Shabbat Mevarchim 5783

Rabbi Eliezer Haim Shenvald

Vision is one of the most wonderful and fascinating facts of divine creation. It is not for nothing that man was created with two eyes and not only one. The two eyes located a few centimeters from each other allow to see three-dimensional images (stereoscopic vision). Sight with only one eye, sees a flat, two-dimensional image, without depth. Each one of our eyes sees a slightly different image from the other, a different angle, yet when both eyes are focused on the same object, the brain combines both images and a simulation of one three-dimensional image is obtained.

A 3D image makes it possible to see reality in a more accurate and balanced way and to distinguish its parts' proportions. In contrast, a two-dimensional flat image reflects a partial reality, and sometimes even distorted. (There are certain military operations where you cannot rely on a two-dimensional image).

In many cases we have one 'dominant' eye (an essential diagnosis when fitting lenses). It does most of the farsightedness. Dominant does not mean it is stronger, just that the brain prefers it. There are extreme situations where the difference between the eyes disrupts vision.

Sages pointed out to the connection between the 'sight' and the intellectual 'understanding':

דע כי ׳ראה׳ ו׳הביט׳ ו׳חזה׳ – שלש המלות האלה נופלות על ראות העין והושאלו שלשתם להשגת השכל.

"The three verbs ra'ah (see), hibbit (look), and cḥazah (prophesied), which denote “he perceived with the eye,” are also used figuratively in the sense of intellectual perception". (Guide for the Perplexed Part I 4:1)

Our lives are a complex and three-dimensional reality. It is not flat, it has depth. To understand it in a correct and balanced way, you need to observe it with two eyes, in '3D'. Some people observe reality with only one eye, the dominant one, with flat vision, to make it easier for themselves and to simplify the complexity of reality. They prefer to close the other eye completely. It's easier.

When the left eye is the dominant one, the perception of reality does not include what can be seen only if the right eye is also used ('blind spot'). And vice versa. People whose vision of the world includes values, close their second eye which identifies reality's manipulative interests. And on the contrary, people whose world is self-interested and aggressive, are completely blind to the value aspects of reality.

No wonder that between the two types of dominants, the right and the left, there are two different perceptions of reality, and the conversation between them becomes a 'deaf conversation'. The way to bridge between them and create a common dialogue, does not require giving up the dominance of one eye, but making sure that they balance the image by simultaneously using their other eye as well.

Parashat Re'eh opens with the choice between good and bad, blessings and curses:

רְאֵ֗ה אָנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה׃ אֶֽת־הַבְּרָכָ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְע֗וּ... וְהַקְּלָלָ֗ה אִם־לֹ֤א תִשְׁמְעוּ֙...

"See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing, if you obey… and curse, if you do not obey…" (Devarim 11:26-28)

Rabbi Chaim Ben Atar asks:

צריך לדעת למה אמר לשון ראיה על הדברים

"Why did Moshe employ the term "seeing," in connection with words, i.e. the words of a blessing?" (Or HaChaim Ibid.) In other words, why do we need 'vision' to be able to choose? His answer- is that it is impossible to choose correctly if the perception of the world is one-dimensional and one does not simultaneously look with 'both eyes' - in the spiritual world, and in 'physical world':

ונראה שהכוונה היא כי לפי שבא להבחירם בעולם העליון ולהמעיט כל טובות עולם הזה, וכדי שיתאמתו אצלם הדברים צריך שהמוכיח יהיה בו ב' עניינים, א' שיכיר הכרה חושית בטוב העליון, והב' שהשיג השגת טוב עולם הזה וקנייניו, כי אם המוכיח יהיה מושלל מקנייני עולם הזה לא יאמנו דבריו למשיגי טובת עולם הזה כי יאמרו אין אומרים למי שלא ראה יבא ויגיד שאם היה טועם טעמי הנאות גדולת העולם הזה וקנייניו ותענוגיו לא היה ממאיסו ובוחר בזולתו ובזה לא יטו אזנם לקבל דבריו, גם הבא להפליג בטוב עולם הבא לא יוצדקו ולא יאמנו דבריו לשכל הטבעי כל שהוא עצמו אין דבריו אלא מפי האמונה והוא לא ראה ולא ידע…

"I believe that the wording of our verse is connected to the message Moshe wants to convey, i.e. that the people should learn to set more store by the blessings which will accrue to them in the Hereafter than the blessings which accrue to them in this life. In order for the prophet who conveys such teachings to be believable he must possess two qualifications. 1) He must himself have a deep appreciation of the value of the good to be experienced only in the celestial regions. 2) He must have demonstrated that he personally has achieved success in this life and what it has to offer. If the person preaching the values of the Hereafter were not himself blessed with success in this life, his listeners would not believe him thinking that he consoles himself with something in the future because he had been unable to attain it in the here and now. Moreover, even if someone who has experienced all that this life has to offer praises the Hereafter in exaggerated terms, he is not liable to be believed unless he can prove that he has first-hand experience of what goes on in the celestial regions... " (Ibid)

Moshe Rabbeinu had a complete reality vision, with 'two eyes', consisting of its two components, and only he could present a reliable picture of the world to choose from.

On a higher level, we find a relation between the perfect Divine Reality vision, and Moshe's partial human vision:

וַיֹּאמֶר ה' רָאֹה רָאִיתִי, אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמשֶׁה אַתָּה רוֹאֶה רְאִיָה אַחַת וַאֲנִי רוֹאֶה שְׁתֵּי רְאִיּוֹת...

"And G-d said, "see I have seen". The Almighty said to Moshe: "You see once and I see twice…" (Shemot Rabbah 42:5).

And we keep praying:

ה' פְּקַ֥ח אֶת־עֵינֵֽי־אֵ֖לֶּה וְיִרְא֑וּ ...

O ETERNAL One, open the eyes of these men so that they may see…" (II Kings 6:20)

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