Seeing With Discerning Eyes

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

Rav Soloveitchik often said that halacha demands that we develop our eyes to be discerning and our hearts to be sensitive to what we see in this world.

We see from Moshe Rabbeinu, his first encounter with HaShem was with a “Sneh”, a burning bush. The Torah records that “An angel of HaShem appeared to him in a blaze of fire from amid the bush. He saw and behold! The bush was burning in the fire but the bush was not consumed. (Shemot 3:2) . Was Moshe the only person who saw this wondrous event? It could very well be that many saw it but saw nothing unusual about it. Only Moshe had that discerning eye and saw what other did not.

We find likewise by Avraham and Yitzchak. On the third day into their journey toward Har HaMoriah, the Torah states, “Avraham raised his eyes and perceived the place from afar” (Bereishit 4: 4) Avraham saw a cloud hovering over the mountain and recognized it as signifying GD’s Presence (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer). He said , “Yitzchak , my son, do you see what I see?” “Yes”, Yitzchak said, and Avraham understood that Yitzchak had the discerning and spiritual insight that made him worthy of becoming a Korban to HaShem. He then turned to the two attendants and asked, ”Do you see what I see”? They did not.

GD did not reveal Himself only to the Nevi’’m (prophets). He always did, and continually reveals Himself to all mankind. The most wondrous revelation of His presence is evident in creation, and in the processes of nature. This revelation is unending, appearing in sunrise and sunset, the blooming of the flowers and trees, the waves of the sea and the buzzing of insects. GD is reflected in every one of nature’s rhythms. When ordinary people, like most of us, witness the wonders of nature, we do not perceive the Master of the universe. It seems to us that nature was self-created and self-refined. We view the mechanical nature of the universe, and consider its process as random and meaningless. However, an individual with an elevated personality, with discerning eyes and a sensitive heart, is able to feel and perceive the presence of the Creator. This is what we all must strive for.

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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