Acquiring Torah 33: Rashbi: The Way We See The World
Rabbi Shimon was once going along accompanied by Rabbi Elazar, Rabbi Abba, Rabbi Chiya, Rabbi Yosi, and Rabbi Yehudah. They came to a certain watercourse, and Rabbi Yosi slipped down in his clothes into the water. He said: “I wish this waterchannel had never been here!”
Rabbi Shimon said to him, “You must not say that. This is for the service of the world, and it is forbidden to revile a messenger of the Holy One, Blessed is He, especially those loyal servants of His. They are appointed by Providence. It is written that, “The Lord saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good (Genesis 1:31),” even serpents and scorpions and fleas and all things that appear to be pests; all these things are for the service of the world, though men know it not.”
As they went along, they saw a snake crawling in front of them. Rabbi Shimon said: “Assuredly this creature is there to perform some miracle for us. The snake quickly crept in front of them and wound itself round a basilisk in the middle of the path. They then struggled together until both were killed. When they came upon them they found them lying dead in the road and Rabbi Shimon said: “Blessed be God for performing for us this miracle, for if anyone had looked upon this creature while it was alive, or had been looked upon by it, he would not have escaped harm, much less if he had approached it. Thus God uses all things as His agents and we must not revile anything that He has made. (Zohar III, Emor, 107a)
What saved the travelers from the snake? The fact that Rabbi Shimon immediately looked at it as an agent of God. Rabbi Yosi’s complaint placed him in danger.
Rabbi Shimon studied Torah as the lens through which he saw the world and everything in it, even a dangerous snake and a body of water into which one of the Companions slipped.
We study Torah to open our eyes and see the world through its lens, as in Zohar; the Illuminating Lens. When we use that lens to view even dangerous or uncomfortable things, they become sources of blessing. We then experience the blessing of Torah in all we do.
“v’ha’eir eineinu BiToratecha,” allow us to see the world through the illuminating lens of Torah.