Keen Eyesight Isn’t Necessarily Good Eyesight

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The Torah lists by name the non-kosher birds. One of them is the ra’ah, literally “the seer.” The sages explain: It stands in Babylonia and sees a corpse in the Land of Israel.

Babylonia (בבל) means “confusion” (בלבול). There God confused the tongues of the builders of the Tower of Babel. The Ba’al Shem Tov explains that Babylonia represents a mindset  in a state of confusion. Often Babylonia symbolizes the entirety of the Diaspora, where the Jewish soul, exiled from its homeland (because of its sins), resides in a state of confusion, among 70 existentially confused non-Jewish (non-kosher) mindsets, the 70 nations that oppress the Jewish people. The gematria of “confusion” (בלבול) is 70.

The Ba’al Shem Tov continues to explain that a confused soul standing in Babylonia may very well possess extremely keen eyesight (the sense of the month of Tamuz). He may be able to see, from a great distance, a corpse (a potential prey) in the Land of Israel.

The Land of Israel is called “the land of the living,” the land of righteous souls who are connoted “living.” The impure ra’ah, “seer,” sees faults and flaws in the character and behavior of the righteous from afar (he sees their “corpse” so to speak).

A true tzadik (righteous individual) is like a mirror; whoever looks at him sees a reflection of himself. The sages say that there were those who suspected Moses of committing adultery with their wives. They themselves were adulterers (in thought or in deed) and saw themselves reflected in Moses, the all-inclusive soul of the Jewish people.

A keen sense of sight is not necessarily a rectified sense of sight. Often the very opposite is the case. Balaam possessed the keenest sense of sight, which indeed was the most potent “evil eye” (the antithesis of Abraham’s “goodly eye”; the sages contrast the two in the Ethics of the Fathers).

Tamuz is the month that confused souls (who of course do not recognize and acknowledge that they are confused) are most critical of the righteous of the generation. The true tzadik, as stated, is a mirror. He is an all-inclusive soul. When we see our own faults looking at him, he in his humility (like Moses, the humblest of men) also looks hard at himself in order to find a fine root of our faults within him, in order to establish affinity with us (and help rectify us by first rectifying the source of the fault within himself). His own self-criticism is inspired and directed by his infinite love for Israel. And so he sweetens the essence of the left (critical) eye, including left in right.

3 Comments

  1. thank Hashem for giving us the tzaddiks. thank you rav, for spirtually strengthening us. blessings.

  2. The gematria of Tamuz is 453, which is also the gematria of tzadik gamur, a consummately righteous tzadik (see “Mivchar Shiurei Hitbonenut” 9 on the month of Tamuz).
    R. Gordon

  3. Where is the Baal Shem Tov vort?

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