Rabbi Israel Becker
“Lift up your eyes on high and see who created this” Isaiah 40:26
As Americans prepare to see the most widely witnessed eclipse in human history, it is noteworthy that this week’s portion begins with the word re’eh, which means “see.”
In Deuteronomy 11:26, Moses, in the name of G-d, is saying to the entire Jewish people, “See that which I place before you.” Yet, the word “See” is written in the Hebrew singular form. This can be explained by applying the well-known saying, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” Two people can see the same thing with their eyes, but what each perceives can be as different as night and day. The same is true for the estimated millions of people who will be witnessing Monday’s historic eclipse. Each viewer will perceive what is seen in a different way.
The forthcoming eclipse is a golden opportunity to focus on the gifts bestowed upon mankind by G-d through the heavenly luminaries that He created. The great Torah sage Rabbi Yisroel Salanter was once walking with his students in the early morning hours. At the moment of sunrise, the Rabbi profusely expressed his gratitude to G-d at the awesome gift of the sun, and the immeasurable benefits that the sun brings to all of creation: pleasure, warmth, growth, etc. . . .
When Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein, the spiritual guide of the Lomze Yeshiva in Poland, heard about how the great sage responded to an ordinary sunrise, he wondered why most people don’t sense and appreciate the gift of the sun like Rabbi Yisroel Salanter. He provided a penetrating answer that strikes at the core of human nature. Most people can feel a sense of gratitude, even deeply, when they receive a personal benefit. However, when everyone receives the same benefit, their feeling of gratitude is diminished or disappears entirely.
Rabbi Yisroel Salanter loved all of mankind from the depths of his heart. Therefore, he was able to personally feel and express his gratitude to G-d, even for a blessing that all humanity receives. That’s why he was jubilant seeing the sun once again!
We are cautioned that to see the eclipse requires special glasses. Likewise, to see the spiritual radiance of the eclipse and G-d’s benevolence requires spiritual glasses.
The earth’s bounty, the moon’s light, and the sun’s gifts, are endowed to us by G-d for all humans to enjoy. Let us also recognize that just as G-d loves all mankind, so must all mankind learn to love and respect each other. How fitting a reminder at a time that sadly rising numbers of misguided Americans are generating hate instead of love.