Seeing Clearly: A good Eye – Ayin Tova Lights the Path to Pesach

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by R. Eliezer Simcha Weisz

The coming Shabbat before Pesach, Shabbat Hagadol, we read the Torah portion of Metzora, discussing tzaraat. Within this narrative lies a powerful message about the importance of a good eye – Ayin Tova, particularly as we prepare for the holiday of Pesach.

The Torah (Vayikra 13:52) describes a situation where the appearance of a nega (blemish) hasn’t changed. Here, the verse uses the phrase והנה לא הפך הנגע את עינו “vehineh lo hofach hanega es ayno” – “and behold, the nega has not changed its appearance” While “ayin” עין literally translates to “eye,” it carries a deeper meaning.

The Chidushei HaRim (R. Yitzchak Meir Alter first Rebbe of Gur) offers a profound insight. The Talmud tells us that tzaraat can be caused by certain sins, with “Lashon Hara” (evil speech) being a prominent one. However, another sin mentioned is “Tzoras Ha’Ayin” – literally “narrowness of the eye.” This doesn’t just refer to a miser, but to someone who constantly sees the negative and lacks “Ayin Tova” – a good eye – Ayin Tova.

According to the Chidushei HaRim, the pasuk hinting at the continuance of the tzaraat implies that the person hasn’t changed their perspective. Their “ayin” remains fixed on the negative, hindering their teshuva (repentance). This message underscores the importance of cultivating a positive outlook, an “Ayin Tova,” as we approach Pesach, a time of liberation and renewal.

Two powerful stories illuminate the transformative power of a good eye – Ayin Tova.

Shifting Focus: Rabbi Lazer Silver’s Story

Following World War II, the gaon Rabbi Lazer Silver – the religious leader of American Jewry who organized the Vaad Hatzalah (organization to rescue Jews in Europe from the Holocaust) – was among the first to visit war-torn Europe immediately after the capitulation of the Nazis to assess the needs of survivors. He spent a Shabbat with survivors at a displaced survivors’ camp in Germany. On Shabbat, they were short one man for a minyan. A man outside refused to join and be the tenth man, citing a negative experience with a religious Jew in a concentration camp. The man explained how this religious Jew had a siddur and would only allow other concentration camp victims to use his siddur in exchange for part of their meager food rations, leaving the man who refused to join the minyan disgusted by religious Jews. Rabbi Silver, with an “Ayin Tova,” gently asked why the man wouldn’t focus on the countless Jews who, despite unimaginable hardship and starvation, were prepared to barter their desperately needed rations for the chance to use the siddur. The man, realizing his skewed perspective, joined the minyan. This story, which was recounted by Simon Wiesenthal about himself, highlights the transformative power of seeing the good.

Seeing Beyond: Rabbi Yaakov ben Yosef Reischer’s Story

The gaon Rabbi Yaakov ben Yosef Reischer, suffered a devastating loss – his eyesight. In his despair, he vowed to complete a commentary on the compilation of the Aggadah of the Talmud the “Ein Yaakov” עין יעקב (meaning “eye of Yaakov”) if his vision was restored. After two years of blindness, a doctor came to his town, treated him, and his sight returned. He dedicated himself to fulfilling his vow and wrote his commentary on “Ein Yaakov” as thanks to Hashem (“G-d”). This story, beyond the physical miracle, emphasizes the importance of both physical and spiritual sight. The Gaon Rabbi Reischer regained his physical vision, but it was his commitment to seeing the world through the lens of Torah that truly defined him.

These stories illustrate that an “Ayin Tova” is crucial for a meaningful life. It allows us to move beyond negativity and embrace the potential for good.

A Lesson in Compassion

One Shabbat Hagadol, The gaon Rabbi Reischer delivered a brilliant derasha on the shiurim, the amount, of Matzah required to be eaten at the Seder. The shul was packed and the whole community were enthralled by his scholarly insights. However, after the derasha, a haggard pauper approached him. The man, on the brink of tears, explained that none of the shiurim mentioned in the derasha were relevant to him as he had no food or matzos for his family’s Pesach seder. In that moment, the gaon Rabbi Reischer understood the true purpose of his Torah learning. Immediately, he retreated to Aron Kodesh and the crowd hushed. They were thrilled that the Rav was going to continue his shiur and waited with bated breath; then the Rav continued his derasha. “My entire derasha is upgrefrekt (proven wrong). The new shiur for achilas matzah is to ensure that every single family has enough food and matzah to eat for Pesach.” He declared a new additional “shiur” – the amount of Matzah needed is enough to ensure every single family has food for Pesach. This act of compassion, born from a “Ayin Tova,” reminds us that true scholarship extends beyond intellectual knowledge. It compels us to see beyond words and act with kindness.

As we approach Pesach, the call to cultivate a “Ayin Tova” becomes especially resonant. By opening our eyes to the needs of those around us, we can not only ensure a meaningful Chag  but also bring the spirit of  Yom tov  of liberation of being bnei chorin to those around us. Let us enter Pesach with an “Ayin Tova.”

The Pesach holiday is also referred to as Hag HaHeirut, or in English, the “Festival of Freedom.” The custom of giving charity to the poor before Passover stems from the hope that, with the generosity of the community, every Jew can successfully celebrate their freedom without feeling enslaved to the high costs of preparing for the holiday. 

This act of giving, known as Maot Chitim (money to buy wheat) or Kimcha De Pischa (flour for Pesach), embodies the spirit of Pesach. It reminds us that true liberation extends beyond our physical freedom from Egypt. It compels us to break free from the narrowness of self-interest and embrace the responsibility to help those less fortunate.

As we enter Pesach with an “Ayin Tova,”. May our tables be filled with matzah and the bounty of freedom, but may our hearts be even fuller with compassion and a commitment to helping those in need.

Chag Pesach Kasher VeSameach! (Happy Passover!)

About Eliezer Simcha Weisz

Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weisz is a member of The Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel

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