Eyes for Today?
“On this day Hashem your Lord commands you to do all these statutes….” (26:16) Rashi brings from Chazal “this day means that it should be in your eyes as if today you were commanded in these Mitzvos”. This peculiar command to seemingly pretend that we were freshly commanded in something that we were commanded prior, in the case of Klal Yisroel in our Parsha forty years earlier, and for us three thousand years earlier, repeats itself. “….Listen Israel today you have become a nation to Hashem….” (27:9). There too, Rashi brings the Chazal that we are to make it in our eyes as if we underwent a covenant with Hashem today. What is the meaning and purpose of seemingly pretending that these commands and covenant happened today? Another point to ponder is what Rashi says ‘it should be in your eyes’, why is that necessary to mention? Rashi should have just simply said ‘it should be as if it happened today’.
At the end of the Parsha the Pasuk says “And Hashem has not given you a heart to know and eyes to see and ears to hear until this day” (29:3) . Why is it necessary to mention the body parts? Seemingly these body parts are the same ones they were born with. It should have simply said ‘Hashem first gave you understanding, vision, and hearing today’. Rashi on the words “until this day” connects it to the Pasuk we referenced above “today you became a nation to Hashem”. Rashi explains that on this day Moshe gave a Sefer Torah to the tribe of Levi. The rest of the tribes thought that Moshe would only give a sefer Torah to Levi, which in a future generation would enable Levi to claim a monopoly on the Torah. When Moshe saw how the Jewish people cared so much about having equal connection to the Torah, he said, ‘Today you became a nation’ meaning, “today I realize that you desire Hashem and cling to Him. What does the heart to understand and the eyes to see and the ears to hear have to do with the Jewish people rightfully demanding that they all get sifrei Torah do no one can claim a monopoly on the Torah? How does this pshat fit with the pshat Rashi said before “let it be in your eyes as if you came into the covenant today”
What takes 40 Years?
Subsequently (29:6), Rashi says a different explanation on ‘heart to understand, eyes to see and ears to hear’ and references the Chazal that a person only fully understands the mind of his Rebbe and the wisdom of his learning after 40 years. Therefore, until this point of 40 years after Matan Torah Hashem was lenient. From now on Hashem will expect and insist on more. The simple meaning of this Chazal is that Moshe is talking about them having understanding, vision and really hearing 40 years after the Torah was given. What are the Mind of the Rebbe and the Wisdom of the learning that take so long to understand? Why should it take 40 years? We remain with the question of what all this has to do with the body parts heart, eyes and ears which any student had since he was born.
Understand, See, & Cling
There is seemingly a repetitious request in the bracha that we say before Shema of Shacharis. We ask of Hashem ‘our father who is merciful, have mercy on us and put in our heart understanding, to hear, to learn and to teach, to observe, to perform and uphold all the words of your Torah learning” seemingly the request for full understanding was made but then we further ask: ‘enlighten our eyes with your Torah and have our heart cling to your Mitzvos’. What was added by enlighten our eyes in your Torah and have our heart cling to your Mitzvos’ above and beyond the request that was clearly made to have a full understanding of the Torah to learn, to teach and to fully uphold the Mitzvos?
Heart, Eyes, & Ears
We have explained in the past (see Even Shesiya Yisro 5778 and Even Shesiya Bechukosai 5778) that Torah and all that is associated with it never gets old. It is perpetually fresh and actually gets newer and newer from our spiritual perspective (we will explain what this means in just a few lines) because since Torah is Hashem’s will and word, it is infinite, so not only can you never be bored with it, but there are constantly new revelations of it for the rest of time and for all of eternity and it is the Torah that is the “Aura of the Shechina” that the Tzaddikim enjoy in Olam HaBa for ever and ever. But why does it not feel this way? The reason it doesn’t feel this way is because we learn Torah with our heart (Mind), eyes, and ears. What do the flesh eyes see? Shapes and colors. What do the ears hear? Sound bites. To the eyes, I am looking at the same shaped letters day in and day out and to the ears I am hearing the same sound bytes of Torah ideas day in and day out. If our heart (comprehension) is only as deep as the shapes of the letters and the physical words that they form and as the literal meaning of the sound bytes we hear over and over again, Torah would surely seem boring if repeated over and over again. The problem with the perception of the senses and the physical biochemical intelligence is that they don’t go beyond the very raw physical stimuli of the information.
Understanding to Keep Mitzvos
There are two major jumps that the mind must do with what is processed through the eyes and ears. Firstly, it must make the most basic sense out of what the eyes and ears perceive, so as to formulate what we are being instructed to do in order to keep the Mitzvos. This is the first request that we put forth: the intelligence to perceive to properly learn and convey the Mitzvos that we must perform and uphold. This alone requires prayer because Torah is not like secular knowledge that is just measurements of the physical world around us. Torah is from heaven and it is cloaked in the letters of the Aleph-Beis that makes out the words that we read and hear, and it requires Divine assistance even to make simple sense as to how to properly perform any Mitzva with all its detailed halachos.
Perceiving Divine Light
Torah is not just Divine instructions from Heaven. It is pure Divine power. This is the secret that at the time of the giving of the Torah, the whole nation “saw the sounds”. As we say in the bracha following Shema: “Hashem’s words (Torah) words of Torah are living and eternal Divine energy”. Torah permeates our being and puts real Divine power in all the Mitzvos that we do. We want to regain the level that we had at Sinai and actually see the sounds of Torah and connect to their Divine essence and absorb it within us, uniting with the Torah in a perfect fusion. In a state of connection to the essence of Torah, one can feel tangibly the infinite newness that there is in Torah and our bond with Hashem. This is what we further ask ‘enlighten our eyes with your Torah” that we should see the Divine light of Torah like at Sinai and on that level “our heart clings to the Mitzvos” because on that level of perception, Torah and the Jew in body are one.
Adjusting the Eyes
With this we can understand what Rashi meant by saying “it should be in your eyes as if today you were commanded”. The Torah and all related to it is infinite and hence perpetually new. The problem is with the eyes. The physical eyes that just see the shape of the letters and the physical ears that only hear sound-bytes cannot perceive anything new when looking at the same letters and hearing the same sound-bytes. We have to overcome the problem that is in the eyes and elevate them to actually see Torah differently with a fresh perspective and for the ears to hear something new in the very same words day in and day out.
Bridging the Body & the Beyond
On this level of seeing perpetual newness a person is fully connected, even in his earthly body. That’s what the Pasuk means “you have a heart that understands, eyes that see and ears that hear” these organs which give us our physical, biochemical perception are also attuned to the Divine light of Torah. That’s why Rashi relates this Pasuk back to the event alluded to in the earlier Pasuk of ‘today you became a nation’, where Moshe said, ‘today I see you truly desire and cling to Hashem’. The Jewish people had attained the level that we pray for of enlighten our eyes in your Torah and have our heart cling to your Mitzvos, where they can feel perpetual newness in their connection to Hashem and thus Moshe says “today I realize that you are clinging to Hashem”
There is an ancient saying to be found throughout our literature ‘time will do what the intellect cannot’, meaning to say that people come to realizations later in life that they could not figure out by themselves earlier. It is not just because they learned new things from experience. This can happen without having experienced anything new. It is because the Neshama that sits in the body is constantly influencing it and merging with it, progressively elevating the body to make it worthy of immortality. This is the secret behind the Mitzva to honor any morally upright elder, even if he is not a Talmid Chacham. Since he has had his Neshama inside his body for a full lifetime of seventy years, it has elevated his physical nature and he is more of a spiritual being than a youngster who has not had body and soul together for as long. The same is true for the Torah that anyone has learned. Even if at first was not fully understood by the biochemical mind, in course of time, the Torah inside of him influences the mind and the senses and after time, the person realizes the full impact of what he learned so many years before, and at that moment, what he had learned so many years before seems new and fresh.
The significance of the number 40 is for the human to attain actualization. In a developing embryo, it takes 40 days from conception until a human form is attained; which means that the process of going from potential to actual is 40. With this we understand what the Mishna says in Avos (5:24) at 40 years of age there is understanding. The human mind actualizes its full potential after 40 years. The same is true in the learning process. When the Torah is first absorbed through the physical eyes and ears, the potential for full understanding is there but it takes 40 years for that potential to unfold into full actuality and fully penetrate and unite with the mind, the eyes and the ears. What takes 40 years is not to decipher the basic instructions of the Torah as to how to do the Mitzvos, even though that requires Divine assistance also. What takes 40 years is what your Rebbe was trying to teach you. A real Rebbe is not a tape-recorder that parrots the sound bytes of Torah. The Rebbe’s mission is to try to bridge the mind of the student with the infinite intelligence of the Torah and the “Hesberim”-explanations in his shiurim are there to forge that bridge that takes 40 years to come to full actuality. Similarly, it is the wisdom of your learning that requires 40 years whereas the learning per se as how to perform the Mitzvos does not require 40 years, even if it does require Divine assistance….
Understanding & Teshuva
This dichotomy between man’s body which includes his eyes, ears and physical intelligence on the one hand, and the Neshama and Torah on the other hand, is what facilitates falling short of what the Torah demands, as man’s body, including the biochemical perception, is not in sync with Divine will. Teshuva is to realign body with Neshama and Torah and that is why the Navi says (Yeshayahu 6:10) ‘and his heart will understand and then he will do Teshuva’ and in the sefer ‘Tomer Devorah’ of Rav Moshe Cordevero he says that the attribute of “Bina”-understanding is exemplified by Teshuva. Teshuva and the real understanding of the Neshama and Torah penetrating the heart, eyes and ears are actually one and the same. It is the alignment between the physical body and brain with the Neshama and Torah.
By no coincidence, when Hashem decided to take the Jewish people back after the sin of the golden calf, Moshe had to go to heaven for 40 days to get the second Luchos. Those 40 days of Teshuva are perfectly parallel to the 40 days of the emergence of the human form after conception which is perfectly parallel to the 40 years of attaining true understanding. It takes 40 days of pure teshuva to merit an acceleration of a 40-year process to carve the words of the Torah onto our hearts of stone giving us a heart that is truly understanding and clinging to Hashem, His Torah and Mitzvos.