Our recent return to Shul, despite the need for masks and distancing, has certainly restored our spirits by enabling us to pray together once again, albeit with a diminished audience.
Equally thrilling is the excitement of seeing one another again after such a long hiatus in isolation.
This morning as I arrived to Shul I was surprised to see one of my dearest friends who had been holding out safely at home until this time, making his first excursion to Shul in over four months.This is someone I study with daily on Zoom, who participates in a daily live Chizuk broadcast, and whom I have been in constant through text and phone throughout theses many months.
Yet, when seeing him ‘live’ a feeling of joy was palpable. Although I felt compelled to greet him with a big hug, propriety took over in preserving safety protocols.
I wondered to myself why I became so enthused. After all we were ‘connected’ during this entire ordeal.
We’ve all experienced similar sentiments after seeing our parents, children, friends after being apart for a while. What is about close physical proximity that brings us such joy?
After Moshe realizes his being prohibited entry to the Holy Land is a fait accompli, G-d directs him to, ‘Go up to this mountain Avarim and see the Land that I have given to the Children of Israel. You shall see it and you shall be gathered unto your people...’
Clearly this was not a divinely guided tour of the land. Moshe was shown a vision of the future, the travail, and the glory until the final redemption.
But why did he have to physically view it? G-d could have shown him this vision from the comfort of his tent.
This concept of ‘seeing’ the land seems to contrast with the spies who were also instructed to, ‘See the land -how is it?’
They flubbed it. That entire generation who cried over their fate was subsequently banned from entering the land when G-d declared ‘...all who angered Me shall not see it.’
What is this emphasis on seeing it rather than living it?
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto reveals a fascinating, and certainly mystical, understanding of the power of ‘sight’ and its purpose.
He describes how when looking at something the soul radiates outward, attaching itself to that object that is seen, embracing it, and returns as an image depicted upon the eye of the viewer.
(אדיר במרום ד' רעג)
Perhaps the laymen’s understanding of this mystical notion is that when we look honestly at a person or item and understand its significance, purpose and value to my existence and mission, we create a bond between our soul and G-d through the vehicle which is there to connect us.
But it must be a unfiltered view, one not sullied by selfish interests or motivations that prevent the ‘image’ from reflecting back to us purely. When we see the ‘good’ and the ‘value’ in the focal point of our vision it cleaves with our soul emitting a sensation of ‘light’ that stems from the Creator Himself.
Moshe was permitting his soul to ‘see’ and exhilarate in a bond to the Almighty that stems from this focal point of our lives, Eretz Yisrael.
The generation of the spies were commissioned to ‘see’ the land, but all they observed was their own interests, never attaining connection to land of G-d.
How purely we ‘view’ each other determines the level of enthused existence that results in our souls bonding to one another.
Most times we are too smart for our own good. We gaze at others seeing our own interests, and limited perceptions, not giving full and undiluted credence to the one in our purview.
Years ago, I read an article, entitled ‘Gratitude’, written by Chaya Bruchy Mehring, a thirteen-year-old girl regarding her Down Syndrome sister, that appeared in the publication Down Syndrome Among Us - Issue 22.
I believe it expresses in a most poignant way the power of ‘connection’ that generates from pure unsullied souls who ‘see’ the world with precision and accuracy.
I was just a small first grader when my sister was born.
I was proud of my new uniform with its freshly pressed shirt and sharply pleated jumper. A few months of school did not take away that feeling as I walked through the halls of Bais Chana each day. No less was my feeling of pride when I heard that my mother had a baby. I was the big sister! Not only was I a big first grader who could help a lot, I was also the baby’s only sister among my siblings, all boys.
My excitement was pierced slightly as my parents gently broke the news to me. My little sister, the tiny, innocent baby had Down syndrome. She had a disability. She was different. Certain things would be hard for her, she would be weaker than other babies, she would need more help.
I was so proud of my sister. I still loved her, even though her days were not only filled with eating and sleeping. My little baby sister spent hours with therapists who challenged her with tasks that were difficult for her. They pushed her to limits and worked with her until she slowly mastered baby steps. My little baby sister had to learn skills that would come naturally to other babies, like crawling, walking, talking. As my sister grew up, she had to go to a special school to help her earn. People say that children with Down syndrome cannot do other things that the rest of us, ordinary people can. But my family and I have seen otherwise.
“Odinary” people are often grumpy. They wake up on the wrong side, complain about everything that goes wrong, and need to be reminded to be cheerful sometimes. Ella is always happy, so full of simchas hachayim. Even when something happens that would upset me, Ella is still happy. She smiles through traffic jams; she smiles when the store is out of the skirt her size and she smiles when it’s time to go to sleep. Ella can make others happy so easily – her smile is irresistible and contagious. When others are upset, Ella is the first one to go over, give a kiss and say, “feel better”.
“Ordinary” people are often selfish. They are hesitant to share or help others. Ella is always ready to give, offer help and part with her personal belongings. She can be found enthusiastically sharing her snack in school without anyone telling her to do so.
“Ordinary” people often give up. They find it easier to say, “I can’t do it”, than to keep on trying. Ella does not give up; whether it is getting the folder into her knapsack, putting her coat on, or packing a toy away in a tight space. Ella keeps on trying until she CAN do it; she perseveres until she meets success.
“Ordinary” people often forget to say, ‘thank you’. They forget to thank someone who has done something for them, whether it is a special favor, or a simple one. Not Ella. Ella does not forget to thank the bus driver, the man in the grocery store or my mother. She remembers to say thank you, even when it is something as small as getting a drink.
And so, the world says that my sister cannot do a lot of things that I can. But they do not know that my adorable sister, Ella, is my teacher. Ella has taught me what true simcha is. She has taught me what selflessness is. She has taught me what persistence is. She has taught me what appreciation is.
My sister has taught me and continues to teach me every day. Ella is “extra ordinary”. And for that I am grateful.
When my dear friend and I actually ‘saw each other’ our souls naturally expressed their joy, fulfilling the Ramchal’s theory of connection.
When we genuinely ‘see’ each other, it makes no difference whether we are old friends, new acquaintances or for that matter strangers, we will sense divine happiness.
May we remove all the layers of bias, preconceived notions, and selfishness in all our interactions, expressing our souls true pining, and merit to finally ‘see the light’.
צבי יהודה טייכמאן