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Shelach Lecha: Sometimes, blind people see more

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Blind people can sometimes see more than everyone else.

At the beginning of Parshat Shelach Lecha (Bamidbar 13:18) an instruction is given to the spies who were about to enter into the land:

“Ure’item et haaretz,” – “See the land,” meaning, have a careful look at everything in front of you, come back and report to us.

That’s the mission that they were charged with. The unfortunate result was that ten of the twelve spies came back with a tragically irresponsible report. They had seen everything in front of them but had misinterpreted it.

One of the blessings which we recite every morning upon waking up is to say thank you Hashem, “pokeach ivrim” – “Who opens the eyes of the blind.” That’s because while we are sleeping at night, our eyes are closed, and we thank God for the vision that we have when we wake up.

There is a fascinating question in halacha. If somebody is sadly blind, should he or she say this blessing? The Mishna Brura states that they must. There are two possible reasons. One is that a blind person benefits from the vision of a sighted person and therefore when saying this blessing they are not referring to themselves but rather thanking God for the vision given to clothes who can assist them.

Then there is a second reason. The term ‘pokeiach’ – ‘to open the eyes’ is actually the root of the Hebrew word ‘pikeach’ which means ‘bright’ or ‘clever’. What the blind person is saying, therefore, is, “Thank you, God, for enabling me to understand what is in front of me. I might not physically be able to see it, but I can certainly perceive what is in front of me.”

In English we have a beautiful saying, “I see what you mean.” Sure enough, a blind person can definitely see what we mean, sometimes far better than others. So unlike a blind person, who possesses the capacity to perceive what is in front of them, the spies wasted and even abused the gift of sight, when they went into the Holy Land.

That very same term, ‘ure’item’ is repeated at the end of Parshat Shelach Lecha in the third paragraph of the shema (Bamidbar 15:39). It’s the same word: “Ureitem otoh.” –  We should “have a look at” the fringe of our tzitzit. We should utilise the physical vision that we have, to see something which will remind us of the mitzvot that we should perform. We should elevate that capacity to see, to use it for valuable purposes.

Therefore from Parshat Shelach Lecha, let us always remember how important it is for us to strive to properly understand what is happening in front of us and when it comes to the gift of vision, let’s use it and not abuse it.

Shabbat shalom.

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