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Parshas Vayera - We never learn until We Make a Mistake......and Then Some                   19 Cheshvan 5781

11/06/2020 09:31:39 AM


I have been wearing glasses since I was nine years old. Thank God for corrective lenses.  They have helped me to see clearly throughout my life. Our vision, as well as all our senses and abilities, should never be taken for granted and should be reflected upon from time to time in order to more deeply appreciate that which we have.

According to research conducted by the Vision Impact Institute, three out of four people in the U.S. require vision correction, and of those people, 71% wear glasses and 22% wear contacts. However, the number of people wearing corrective glasses or contacts changes drastically as people age. Only 59% of people ages 25-39 wear corrective lenses, while 93% of people between the ages of 65 and 75 wear corrective lenses. The proportion of individuals requiring glasses to improve their sight rapidly increases after the age of 45.Interestingly,the study also found that people between the ages of 16 and 25 tend to look at screens (e.g. tablets, phones, and computers) more than 3 hours per day. All that screen time can later lead to serious problems such as age-related macular degeneration. Although there may be some scientific support that eyesight is determined or controlled by our environment, most will say it comes down to genetics, and there is truly little one can do to change that. However, having good or bad eyesight is a physical condition. There are other types of sight, critical to all of our lives, which cannot be corrected by glasses or contacts .

The phrase “hindsight is 20/20” means looking back at a situation or an event and having a clearer understanding of how things could have been done better or more appropriately. This  wishing to be able to undo a previously missed opportunity or inappropriate action, unfortunately, cannot be undone by use of corrective lenses. People have visions - visions of greatness, visions of prophecy, visions of making appropriate, smart choices all requiring spiritual corrective lenses known as ‘Hashkafa”. Everyone has an Hashakafa, but just as in the physical sense there is bad and good, so, too, in the philosophical realm there is good and bad. Chaza”l teach us in Pirkei Avos: ‘Who is a wise person? Someone who has eyes in his head.’ It is interesting to note that while it is true our eyes are located on the part of the body which sits on top of the neck called the head, eyes are really located on the face. Therefore, shouldn’t the Rabbis’ statement  be that a wise person has his eyes on his head, not in his head? So, what do the Rabbis mean when they say a wise person has his eyes in his head? The answer is, that the statement is not speaking of the eyes in terms of physically seeing, for those eyes are located on the face. The eyes in the head represent sight governed by our intellect, knowledge, and wisdom. Hindsight is not taken literally, of course. We humans do not have eyes in the back of our heads. More accurately, this expression refers figuratively to what the brain interprets: deciphering information already known based upon something that has previously happened.

In this week’s parshas Vayera the Torah states in Bereishis 19:11 "ואת האנשים אשר פתח הבית הכו בסנורים מקטן ועד גדול, וילאו למצא הפתח" “They [the angels] struck the men who were standing at the entrance with blindness – young and old alike — and [the Sodomites] tried in vain to find the door”. The Malbim explains blindness not as a physical eye ailment but rather hallucinations. The Sachatchover Rebbe in his commentary Shem MiShmuel also explains that it was not blindness in the traditional understanding, rather it was a ‘blindness’ of knowledge and intellect. In this instance, the attackers of Lot did not feel or sense the imminent danger that was lurking around the corner, namely the eradication of Sodom and Gomorrah. How do we know that they did not understand or feel a danger coming? The answer is revealed to us at the end of the passuk when the verse states they tried in vain to find the door! Even when blinded, they continued, pursuing a way in to get to Lot, his family, and the angels. A person with sense and wisdom would recognize that this is not going in the direction planned. Maybe we should not be doing this. Instead, they continue their attempt to attack. They are not dissuaded from their goal despite the obvious stumbling block placed before them. Even when their world and their entire mission was literally crumbling underneath them, they lacked the ability to regret their actions and instead of quickly learning from their obvious mistake, they pushed on. To make matters worse, only a few verses later - 19:14 - Lot tries to persuade them to get out of this place, to leave immediately.  But not only did their eyes fail to see it; it also fell on deaf ears (but that is a Drasha for another time). They did not budge from their determination and remained blinded by their stubbornness.

Lot, for his part, was also living down the wrong path. Fortunately for him and part of his family, he was able to see the truth and understand, but the remainder of his family did not. Unfortunately, Lot did not have the foresight to realize – to perceive - the influence he had on his older daughters and married them off to Sodomites. Lot’s daughters were sucked into the society. For them, it was too late to change. Lot brought them up that way, and the mistake in judgment was a costly one. Lot was raised in his Uncle Avraham’s home. Yet, while Avraham Avinu brought Lot up,  at a certain point, which we witnessed in last week’s parsha, Lot grew wealthy and haughty and chose to separate from Avraham.

Members of a community and people living within the private world of their own families need to maintain a life of honesty, integrity, and truth. Once those essential qualities break down a person begins to lead a life that is antithetical to the Torah, falsely justifying the decisions and actions of their lives. Along the way they damage those closest to them: their children, spouses, friends, and others. This lifestyle choice continues until there is a major hiccup and they make a serious mistake. If this  error is caught and honestly looked at, it can be corrected.  Bad decisions are made by all of us as we live our lives, but with focused effort such decisions can be corrected.  However, if the individual remains completely blinded, such serious errors in judgment, errors in behavior will continue until ultimate demise. Remember, no one is perfect, but when we make a mistake, see and face the error.  Ultimately, this  may be for the best in helping to return to seeing things with a perfect vision and Hashkafa.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Tue, October 19 2021 13 Cheshvan 5782