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The Two Mitzvos of Sight

A brief thought for Chanukah from Benzion Twerski, Ph.D.

the.guard Tuesday, 15 December 2020
The Two Mitzvos of Sight

I just wanted to share an insight with the GuardYourEyes community that is appropriate for this Yom Tov of Chanukah.

Over the years, I have worked with a great many people who have fallen prey to the visual images out there that are inappropriate. Aside from the struggle to break free of the grip, many voice their frustration with being overcome with guilt. They express such feelings as, “I have these terrible images burnt into my visual system. How can I ever release that tum’ah? I’m not sure that avoidance and focusing only on the positive is enough to cleanse me.”

It is legendary that our physical health corresponds to our spiritual health. One who develops a medical illness is directed by the Baalei Mussar to examine and take inventory of his spiritual status. He is apt to discover deficiencies that can be seen as causal factors in the disease. And correcting those spiritual deficiencies can result in cure.

Together with that concept, there is that of “tikkun”. We are obligated to direct our use of our faculties to the positive and to the ultimate goal of Kiddush Hashem. As humans, we are prone to imperfection, and there will always be gaps in which we are required to infuse ourselves with kedusha as corrective action. If we peruse the array of mitzvos, we can notice that Shofar is fulfilled by listening. The sensory modality of hearing can be sanctified with hearing the blowing of the shofar. Similarly, listening to the sounds of davening, divrei Torah, and other sounds associated with kedusha accomplish this mission.

We encounter two mitzvos in which we are specifically told to see them. One is Tzitzis. The posuk says clearly “U’re’isem oso”, you should see them. While this is guidance that this mitzvah is to be performed by wearing them so that they are seen, the wording is that we should see them.

The lights of Ner Chanukah are holy to the point that they may not be utilized for another purpose, neither heat for illumination. In the brief paragraph we recite upon kindling Ner Chanukah, we refer to this prohibition of deriving personal pleasure from the candles. But we add the curious phrase, “אלא לראותם בלבד”, only to gaze at them. This is another mitzvah that includes the gazing at it. Perhaps the wisdom of the Chachomim who established this mitzvah included this intent. The mitzvah of lighting the candles of Chanukah is not just the kindling of the little flames. It is the looking at the candles, gazing at them, staring at them, all the while absorbing the secrets of kedusha that emanate from the little rays.

I postulate that these two mitzvos, Tzitzis and Ner Chanukah embody the tikkun for eyesight. Everyone existing has had sights of scenes and images that are inappropriate. And as with everything else that involves variability of more and less, some of us have encountered greater nisyonos than others. But we all share the precious opportunity to repair the spiritual damage done to our sense modality of vision. We can achieve tikkun via Ner Chanukah. In this, we are also bringing into real life the victory of “טמאים ביד טהורים”, the tum’ah into the dominance of kedusha and taharah. This is an auspicious time to daven, where we can beg for the Divine help to maintain our strength and the sanctity of our eyesight.