Friday, June 12, 2015

Parsha: Living With Depth Perception

Rav Aryeh Leibowitz

In the context of tzitis the Torah tells us not to stray after our eyes (“לא תתרו אחרי... עיניכם”).  Generally, this is understood to be an admonition against straying after sins that entice the eyes.  However, there is another possible explanation of this verse.  

A person’s vision is limited to seeing only that which is external.  Mans eye’s are unable to pierce the outer surface of things, and they cannot see what which is within.   Therefore, the inner essence of another being or object is unperceivable to the naked eye.  The Sefas Emes (Shelech 5631) suggests that this is the explanation of the above quoted verse.  The Torah is commanding us not to stray after our surface perceptions.  We mustn’t look at the world with superficial eyes, rather we must seek out the inner essence (פנימיות) of that which we encounter. 

This is especially true in regards to our own self-perception.  Many people refrain from living an inspired religious life, or at least limit their spiritual pursuits, because they fail to recognize their own greatness.  A life of passionate commitment to Torah and mitzvos is sometimes seen as something for the elite, or  “not for me.”  But we must always remember that we are great, and that Torah - with all of its depth - was given for “people like us.”       

The verse says regarding the commandment of tzitzit, “In order to remember and do the commandments (למען תזכרו ועשיתם אותם)”.  Seemingly this verse advises us to look at the tzitzis and remember the mitzvos so we will perform them.  However, if this was the case the verse should have read “and remember them (תזכרו אותם).”  The Sefas Emes therefore suggests that the verse is not instructing us to remember the mitzvos, but rather to remember ourselves.  Be aware of how truly great you are, and then you will be in a position to fulfill the second half of the verse and live a life of passionate commitment to Torah and mitzvos.    

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