Counting Our Blessings

For the week ending 27 June 2020 / 5 Tammuz 5780

The Morning Blessings: Blessing Five: What Big Eyes You Have All The Better To See You With!

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
Library Library Library

“Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who gives sight to the blind.”

The fifth blessing thanks G-d for having given us sight. The origin of the words “gives sight to the blind” is chapter 146 from the Book of Psalms, verse eight. There is an obvious practical dimension to the blessing: Sight is a precious gift that has been granted to us, and it is incumbent upon us to thank G-d for having given it to us.

But there is a much deeper element as well. As was mentioned in the introduction, each blessing serves as a step upwards to the next blessing and it is designed to help elevate us toward the next spiritual level. The previous blessing revolved around the recognition that there are commandments to keep, but now we have reached the point where we are able to open our eyes and see those commandments. Therefore, we thank G-d for having allowed us to reach this moment of comprehension that we are surrounded by innumerable opportunities to perform the commandments and to do G-d’s Will.

In chapter 21 of Genesis the Torah describes the plight of Hagar and her son Yishmael. They were banished from Avraham’s encampment, and, having lost their way, they ended up wandering aimlessly through the desert. Yishmael was sick with fever and needed abundant amounts of water to drink. Very soon their water supply dwindled and finally disappeared. It reached the point that Hagar despaired for Yishmael’s life. Unable to watch her son’s pitiful state any longer, she left him under a tree and moved away so that she wouldn’t have to see him die of thirst. And then she did what she had seen and been taught to do in Avraham’s home. She turned to the only One who could help her, and she beseeched G-d to save her son. Verse 19 reads, “Then G-d opened her eyes and she perceived a well of water, she went and filled the skin with water and gave the youth to drink.” Our Sages point out that the verse does not state that G-d created a new well for Hagar. Rather, the well was there all along. All that G-d did, so to speak, was to open Hagar’s eyes to what was there in front of her the whole time. So, too, in our daily lives there are occasions when we do not see things that are right there in front of our very eyes. My father used to tell me that the best hiding place is out in the open, because that is the place where most people do not think to look!

At this moment in our journey through the Morning Blessings we are ready to “open our eyes.” To open our eyes to the dazzling array of commandments that await us every day to fulfill them. And that is why, at this significant juncture, our Sages saw fit to compose a blessing that reflects our eagerness to do just that.

In a perhaps even more profound approach, Rabbi David Kimchi, one of the classic commentaries on Tanach, writes that the spiritual darkness that accompanies each and every exile is comparable to blindness. Exile prevents us from seeing G-d clearly, and, as a result, makes it incalculably more challenging to connect to Him. Rabbi Kimchi concludes by writing that when the redemption that we await for so long finally occurs, it will be like a flash of the most brilliant radiance, which will illuminate our lives totally, and will banish blindness from our eyes forever.

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