SPECTACLES TWICE BROKEN
Harav Y. Reuven Rubin
It seems spectacles and me don’t always get on. Now I fully understand that there are those who, when reaching a certain age have a tendency to lose their glasses. That’s not my challenge, no I have a problem because I often sleep with them on. It’s not so I can see my dreams better, it’s just that I tend to fall asleep whilst looking in a sefer and find them in pieces when saying Modah Ani. A decade ago I wrote about just such a mishap, and low and behold, ten years later, on the same Parsha, yours truly has done it again.
I knew my glasses were a bit iffy, they needed to be tightened and perhaps refitted. However, given all that is going on today, I just pushed off my visit to the optometrist until my spectacles forced the issue by splitting in two. I do have an extra pair hidden is a safe place, and after rummaging through my drawers I somehow found them. I was now able to take myself over to the spectacle hospital.
Shamefaced and feeling not a little foolish I was returning with the exact same problem.
As all this was happening, I remembered how I wrote about just this predicament way back then, and want to share some insights with you.
We are living in extremely difficult and dangerous times. When we had to close our shuls during the first lock down, we all felt crushed. Our beloved Shtiebles were off limits, the spiritual heartland of our existence beyond reach. We promised ourselves that if only the Eibishter would have rachmonus, we would run back to our shuls and behave with perfect decorum and clarity of purpose. We would never talk again, we would daven with kavanah, Loshon Horah would be an evil from our murky the past, yes, everything would be different and better. We would have learnt our lessons and understood how precious our shul is in our life. Having lived thru tragedies, seen unbearable pain, we would get back and cherish the opportunities to daven together.
Right, and then we were granted our wish, and what happened?
Sadly, many forgot our earnest promises, left them at the shul doors, and quickly slipped back into our bad old habits.
We have broken the new set of spectacles, forgotten to focus, and now face new closures.
The Parshios in Bereishis speak of the midos of our forebears; we are meant to emulate these in our real lives, not leave them buried in half forgotten Shiurim.
As I shared with you all those years ago, my dear teacher Rav Moshe Kupetz (may he see a Refuah Shleima) once showed me an amazing comment from the Toras Chaim. On the passage “And Hashem blessed Avrohom with all” the sefer quotes the Gemorah in Bava Basra that tells us that Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai taught that “A precious stone hung from the neck of Avrohom Ovinu. Any sick person that looked at it was cured. When Avrohom passed from the world, Hashem hung this stone in the orb of the sun.” The sefer then tells an amazing story. In the days when the Beis Halevi lived with his father in law Rebbe Yitzchok Epron his young child Chaimel (later to grow up to become known as Rav Chaim of Brisk) became extremely ill with a life-threatening illness. Just at that time Rebbe Yitzchok’s Rebbe the Rebbe Rav Moshe Mekabrin came to Volozhin for a visit. It was his custom to stay at the home of his devoted Chassid Rebbe Yitzchok and when he was told that the family was experiencing a difficult time owing to the young child’s critical sickness, the Rebbe insisted that Reb Yitzchok carry on as normal and even host a festive meal. During the meal the Rebbe started to talk about this Gemoroh and how Avrohom had this stone that would cure all who looked upon it. “And what was this precious stone? It was the middah of hospitality and chesed that was so magnanimously practiced by Avrohom Avinu. And when Avrohom Avinu passed on Hashem placed this middah of chesed in the sun where it can shine upon the entire world. The Rebbe then smiled, “Reb Itsha has given hospitality today beyond the call of duty and in that merit his grandson Chaimel will have a complete recovery. And so it was……
Years later The Gaon Rebbe Menachem Nachum Rabinowitz came to Rebbe Chaim for smicha. In the course of their conversation Rebbe Chaim asked the younger man if he had received any other smichos yet. Rebbe Menachem Nachum showed the Rav a smicha that had been awarded him. After reading it Rebbe Chaim murmured that it seemed a bit cold in its wording. Rebbe Menachem Nachum said, “It’s not a wonder that the wording seemed cold; after all the rov who wrote it is a misnaged and I am a chosid.” Rebbe Chaim asked, “and what am I then?” Rebbe Menachem Nachum replied, “You are at least half a chosid.” Rebbe Chaim understood at once that his guest knew about his grandfather’s chasidisha background and asked if he knew of the story of his childhood illness. Rebbe Menachem Nachum repeated the story just as Rebbe Chaim had heard it many times as he grew up. However, he added one point. During the festive meal the Rebbe of Kabrin went into the room where the child lay and said, “In Parshas Vayera when the malochim came to Avrohom Avinu, he prepared food for them. It says in the passage that he stood with them. The use of this word is in the present, not the past tense. The Rebbe said that every time a Jew does a charitable act, Avrohom Avinu stands with him. That is why the term is in the present tense. Every time we do a chesed, that sun of illumination that was Avrohom Avinu shines on us and cures our ills.”
Well, we surely need the curative power of that sunlight today; it comes if we show charity and chesed to one another.
Yes, there are many acts of chesed in our communities. But we need something more: it is the chesed of connecting with our own selves. The Kotzker Rebbe taught that one must not look out at others but rather within oneself.
The spectacles we wear are so often on the verge of breaking, and what we see through them distorts our outlook on life. How can we see our truth when our vision is clouded with forgetfulness of what we so ardently sought just a few months ago?
Yidden have to wake up to the broken glasses they are wearing and repair them before all our vision becomes distorted beyond redemption.
I was fortunate to have an extra pair of glasses, in my drawer, but when it comes to a closed heart there are no spares easily available. Let us stop blaming external forces and focus on our own blurred vision.