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Parshas Toldos - Four Eyes & Four Ears               4 Kislev 5784

11/17/2023 10:36:00 AM


Throughout our lives we experience the need for  things that were created out of necessity, yet over time become essential components  of the fashion industry. And even beyond the scope of the fashion industry these highly useful items morph to the status symbols of accessories. I have now been wearing eyeglasses for half a century. By the time I started wearing glasses in the early 1970’s, there were more styles than the basic black or metal frames, but those stylish glasses of the ‘70’s don’t compare to the choices  we have today. Back in the day when glasses were first introduced, a derogatory slur was to call someone wearing glasses “four eyes”. This insult didn’t last long, as either the growing recognition for the need for glasses became more necessary, or more people who needed glasses started to wear them in public.

A few weeks ago, I observed several of my students wearing different kinds of headphones in between classes. I am positive that they were listening to one of my prerecorded classes and were just reviewing…although I did wonder why they were moving around and tapping their fingers almost as though they were listening to some music! It then dawned on me while thinking about how many people walk around with things like headphones, earbuds, air pods…that perhaps all of these modern additions to our ears could be referred to as ‘four ears’ enhancements! Witnessing the modern additions to our  two God-given hearing devices known as ears caused me to realize that there is   a stark difference between eyeglasses and earphones. Eyeglasses help us. They are customized to improve a person’s vision, allowing  the user to see more clearly those around him or her, to visually connect with everyone else or to more clearly read and write, therefore further enhancing his or her connection to the world at large. Glasses, which clarify and improve vision, allow a person to focus, to visually distinguish between something beneficial or harmful, something beautiful or potentially fearful. A person’s nearsightedness or farsightedness is corrected with lenses that enhance vision. The primary function of earphones or ear buds, however, is to essentially cancel out noise from the outside. They create a bubble specifically designed to exclude noise and possibly a lot of other information from which a person might benefit. Canceling out noise in it of itself isn’t a bad thing, at times it is essential, protecting our ears from loud sounds which could do damage to our ability to hear, or to muffle sound so that a person won’t hear foul language, slander, or evil speech.  In fact, some say Hashem created earlobes for that exact reason, they can act as ear plugs when one does not want to hear something. Truth be told, perhaps Hashem created eyelids to allow a person to close his or her eyes to avoid looking at something inappropriate. Nevertheless, the notion of hearing and seeing is not limited to the physical characteristics of a person, but also can be viewed – or processed - in the abstract. Seeing something in a mentally visionary capacity, the ability to ‘see’ right from wrong, to discern or ‘hear’ what an individual is saying beyond the mere concrete definition of words is to truly process the importance of taking the time to synthesize, to mentally synthesize the words and sounds which surround us.

The Torah is not written with the exclusive intent of the physical realm. It was written with the intent to help us to learn the lessons from the stories. This is certainly true when it comes to our forefathers, as we find with Yitzchok Avinu regarding the two prominent senses of seeing and hearing.

In this week’s Parshas Toldos the Torah states in Bereishis 27:1 "ויהי כי זקן יצחק ותכהין עיניו מראת, ויקרא את עשו בנו הגדול ויאמר אליו בני ויאמר אליו הנני"  “ - Isaac had grown old and his eyesight was fading. He summoned his elder son, Esau - ‘My son’ ‘Yes’. The passuk tells us that Yitzchok’s eyes grew dim, depicting an older man, when he lived another sixty years! The Baal HaTurim explains regarding the middle bracha of Birkas Kohanim, the priestly blessing, that the word Year, to shine light, is in the merit of Yitzchok Avinu. Throughout the course of the Akeida, the binding of Yitzchok, Yitzchok died, and Hashem shined a light upon him bringing him back to life. Metaphorically speaking, when a person can’t see, it is as if he is dead, but someone who can see the world is alive. Perhaps Yitzchok was physically blind and needed glasses, and so Hashem infused the light of sight, giving Yitzchok the corrective lenses that removed the blindness.

As the story of the blessings unfold, and Yaakov (Jacob)dresses to resemble Eisav, he brings the food prepared by his mother, Rivka, to receive the first Bracha from Yitzchok (Isaac) that had been destined to be given to Eisav, his brother. The story is dramatic. We hear in Bereshis 27:22 the Torah states: "ויגש יעקב אל יצחק אביו וימשהו ויאמר הקל קול יעקב והידים ידי עשו" “Yaacov (Jacob) came closer to his father Yitzchok (Isaac), and [Isaac] touched him. Isaac said, ”The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” When reading the words of Yaakov’s voice, it is the way Yitzchok is hearing/ processing the sounds of Yaakov. Yitzchok is internalizing that  the voice is not of Eisav but Yaakov. This level of ‘hearing’ or ‘listening’ is not limited to the physical sounds of their voices but rather to how Yaakov spoke - the tone, the mannerisms, the softness of respect that was more in line with Yaakov rather than Eisav. Yitzchok heard a certain voice or message and rethought its intent and meaning. There are times a person will say something to someone and if he/she truly understood the intent of the statement, will imbeu that intent within the response.  The person might say, ”Do you see what I’m saying?” or… ”Do you hear what I’m saying?” In both cases, we know they physically heard what was said; this is about depth of understanding of what was said.

This past week I had the honor and pleasure of being counted among one of the largest gatherings of Jews in history -  close to three hundred thousand Jews all gathered together for a rally/march in Washington, D.C. I came away with many ideas and lessons from this event. Several of the political and social speakers heard and truly observed/synthesized what the Jewish people are about. On the flip side, I also saw and heard messages from political analysts and politicians. There are underlying messages and nuances that can be seen and heard from both sides of the podium.   The non-Jewish world needs to see and hear what the Jewish people have to say, and the Jewish people need to hear, see, and – most importantly - understand what the world is saying to us. 

Shlomo HaMelech in Koheles begins the third chapter with the well-known…there is a time for this and a time for that. I would like to add, there is a time to close our eyes and a time to open them. There is a time to close our ears and a time to open them up. We, the Jewish people of today, need to open our eyes and put on a pair of corrective lenses to gain clarity on the world scene, simultaneously making sure the world opens their ears to the Kol (voice)of Yaakov and to the yadayim (hands) of Eisav.  The voice of the Jewish people is peace while the hands of Eisav are destruction. Hashem should open the eyes and ears of the nations of the world to bring about a world of Shalom to the Jewish people and to the rest of the world. Amen!

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sat, May 18 2024 10 Iyyar 5784