#BlogElul 10: See


#BlogElul graphic

It’s Elul again!

Judaism has an interesting relationship with the concept of seeing things. In both of my previous #BlogElul posts on this theme (here and here), I give the same quote from the Sh’ma, the iconic prayer, which is ironically a call to our hearing (it literally begins “Hear, O Israel!”). But in the third paragraph of the Sh’ma, we are given fringes to hold on to to prevent our eyes from leading us astray (or to quote the actual words of the Torah, from leading us into prostitution).

One gets the feeling that Moshe would have preferred the people to rely entirely on hearing (“We will do and we will hear!”) and stay away from all the visual stimulation provided by the pagan neighbours. The Torah is read aloud in the synagogue, rather than letting everyone just read it to themselves. The central prayer of every service, the Amidah, is repeated aloud by the leader, after everyone has read it silently to themselves. Research tells me that the purpose of the reading out loud and the repetition was to accomodate illiterate members of the congregation, but I’m sure there’s also some of that relying on hearing rather than vision, again, to ensure purity of thought.

On the other hand, Moshe tells us several times that we saw the miracles of Egypt and the giving of the Torah at Sinai with our own eyes, giving some support to the idea that seeing is believing. Maybe just hearing things isn’t good enough. We want to see them for ourselves. It’s that rebellious, human streak that we have – we don’t want to take things on authority, because we were told about them. We want to see.

What do you think? Is seeing things likely to lead us into moral turpitude? Would that be a reason to have glasses like this?

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