See and Sin

Vayeitzei

People who are blind from birth and those that see, have many unanswered questions about how their counterparts interact with reality. For those that see, sight is a very principal sense in relating to the world around them and it is difficult to imagine anything else, yet there are plenty of well-adjusted people who have never interacted with the aid of visual input. Conversely, for the blind from birth, sight is an unknown dimension, it has no equivalent and remains a complete mystery, an enigma. It is impossible to compare one sense with another, and therefore, attempts to try and explain different colors are like different smells, are unhelpful. This leaves both sets of people wondering about the experiences of the corresponding group.

Here are some examples of questions asked by those with vision:

“What do you experience when you dream?”
“How do you choose your clothes?”

The blind from birth also puzzle about engagement with this world utilizing the power of sight. Some of their questions, while understandable, have an amusing quality:

“How can you lose something if you can see?”
“When navigating a car, how do you keep track of the driving, road signs, traffic and radio whilst simultaneously have a 
conversation with the person in the passenger seat?”

Many of their questions are insightful into human personality and social existence.

“What is like to walk in the snow?”
“What does it feel like to be able to go somewhere yourself?”

What these questions highlight is that blind people lack a measure of independence. While much progress has been made to help the blind get around, for example, the universal white cane, and GPS for the blind, their mobility is still somewhat limited. They travel on familiar routes, cannot drive cars or get around in icy conditions. They are very much dependent on assistance from others. Here is another question posed by the blind

“Why would you wear apparel or shoes that are uncomfortable, just because it looks good?”

This is a penetrating observation. For the blind, choices do not revolve around aesthetic beauty, and desire cannot be ignited by the visual. They will not be duped by appearances. Usefulness, convenience and practicality are far more critical in decision making.

This is also true for their social company and, more importantly, the friends and confidants that they pick. Attraction towards people is never based on outward deportment or the clothes they wear. Form, figure and facial beauty – which are proverbially skin deep – don’t play a role in creating and forming friendships. Blind persons discover people by their personality. The persona is primarily conveyed to them by one’s speaking manner; people’s choice of words, tone of voice and substance of conversation provide telling clues as to their inner selves. Fortunately for the blind, relationships which are built out of these interactions are of the deep, solid and meaningful type, and are not superficial casual associations.

Hashem linked his G-dly name with Yitzchok even though this man was still alive. This marked departure from celestial practice was conducted because Yitzchok’s eyes had become dim. Our Sages add further explanation for G-d breaking from His normal custom: since the blind are considered like dead. This needs elucidation. Why are the non-seeing regarded as non-alive, perhaps they have a different quality of life but how does seeing equate with existence? Blind people can, and are, active contributing members of society, why would one consider them as if they are not alive?

This world is comparable to a lobby in front of a banquet hall. A large part of existence on this planet – the lobby – is having the inclination and tendency to sin, by overcoming temptation we earn passage to the banquet hall. Man is a battling creature constantly combating the beast within that seeks to drag him ever downward.

The first step of towards the illicit is conducted by the eyes. This organ attracts one to the appealing and alluring. Chazal derive this concept from the Parsha of Tzitzis: “The heart and eyes are the spies for the body, they are its agents for sinning: the eye sees, the heart covets and the body commits the transgression”. Sinning starts with the eyes.

After lust has been aroused a private location is secured to carry out one’s yearning. No one wants to be viewed as an outlaw and therefore a discreet setting is arranged. “Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai said: When a man wants to commit a transgression, he says, I hope no man will see me” (Berachos 28b). Bizarrely, man has more fear from his fellowman than of Heaven. The ability to shed the shackles of societal supervision is instrumental in creating a environment for wanton acts.

The Medrash tells us about Yitzchok “his eyes had become dim, and he was confined to the house; he was like a dead person, the evil inclination having ceased from him”. Sadly, with no visual stimulation to ignite his passion and little itinerant independence he was spiritually unchallenged. The evil inclination is deemed to have ceased in those that lack mobility and visual interaction. With no tempting towards vice there was no test, and thus, being blind he was to a degree equated with the dead.

Correction

Last week’s opening story contained some incorrect details that no bearing on its message. The blog has since been corrected to reflect these changes.

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