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Deaf and Blind

Two of the commandments in this week’s parshah are: “Do not curse a deaf person; and do not put a stumbling block before the blind.” Our Sages explain that, in truth, these commandments apply to everyone. We may not curse people who are not deaf and we may not place stumbling blocks before people who are not blind. Yet, the Torah teaches us these laws specifically by applying them to the deaf and blind.

It is well established that people who lack certain physical abilities—such as blindness—compensate by using more of the other senses and faculties. A blind person will often have a more sensitive sense of hearing or touch, etc.

This physical reality, where the challenged person compensates, is a reflection of the fact that the physically challenged person is actually in possession of more sensitive spiritual capabilities.

First, it is axiomatic in Judaism that when a person is given a challenge, he or she is also given the ability to meet that challenge. Thus, when a person suffers from a physical disability, it means that he or she has the potential to overcome it.

Second, a blind person in Talmudic jargon is called a sagi nahor, which literally means “one who has an abundance of light.” Chassidic sources explain that the blindness is not a consequence of too little light, but of the imbalance caused by light not being able to express itself in the limited physical organ; there is too much light of the soul for the limited physical capabilities of the eye.

What is true of people with physical challenges is also true for the Jews of exile.

Every day there is a heavenly voice that emerges from Mount Sinai that beckons us to get closer to G-d and His Torah. Living in exile prevents us from hearing this message. We are deaf to it.

Every day there are miracles that surround us, demonstrating G-d’s active involvement in our world. We just don’t see them; we are blind. We are in exile.

The Rebbe explained (Seifer HaSichos 5752, Tazria-Metzora) that exile is a time that contains incredible spiritual energies so potent that we cannot contain them. And because we cannot contain properly internalize this energy, it manifests itself in negative ways, to the extent that it can pose serious challenges to us.

The Rebbe explains that we meet the challenge not by negating exile, but by recognizing and discovering the enhanced spiritual energy it possesses.

“Do not curse a deaf person”: Do not tell the spiritually deaf who suffer from galus-itus that they are cursed. Instead, show them how they possess certain qualities and capabilities that were not even present in the days of the Beis HaMikdash.

 “Do not place a stumbling block before the blind”: Do not tell the spiritually blind that they cannot grow in their spiritual lives. Do not give them the message: “You are disabled by exile blindness and as a result, try as you may, you cannot help but continually stumble.” The Torah, in the above verse, wants us to repudiate this negative message.

The above was true throughout the period of exile. However, as we stand now on the very threshold of the final Redemption, we must go to the next step. The emphasis has to be that we want to experience the heightened energies of exile but without the attendant deafness and blindness. We want the benefits of “deafness” and “blindness” even as our ears and eyes are opened.

Now is the time to transform deafness into hearing and blindness into sight without losing any of their advantages. Now is the time to enjoy the best of both worlds.

(Based on an essay by Rabbi Heschel Greenberg)



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