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Tanchuma Toledot: Those Who See For Us

The Midrash Tanchuma (Toldot #7) says; a blind person may lead the congregation in a section of the Shema and translate it, but he cannot officiate before the Ark. […] How can he recite the blessing “Former of the luminaries” when he has never seen the luminaries? He would appear as if he were giving false testimony!

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 69:2) writes: “Even a blind man who has not seen the luminaries at any stage of his life may lead for this section of the Shema because he benefits from the luminaries, as others see by their means and direct him where to go.”

Don’t we suffer from blindness when it comes to so many things? We are constantly praising God for things that we don’t really ‘see’. We thank Him for the gift of Torah- although our understanding of it is limited, for the gift of peace- although we often feel tormented, for His Justice- although we sometimes think that life is unfair. Are we testifying falsely?

Yet, the blind man can stand up in front of the congregation and recite the blessing on the luminaries that his eyes never beheld. He has benefited from their light, since others have held him by the hand and guided him thanks to that light.

We might not fully appreciate the wisdom of Torah, we might be limited in the way we perceive God in many different areas.

But there are always those who have the ability to grasp more of God’s Light. Some of them live in our generation; some of them lived in the past but continue to teach us through their writings. They can lead us by that light.

The Ramchal, in the third chapter of Mesilat Yesharim, gives a powerful analogy. He describes a maze made of interlacing paths. The goal is to reach a portico in the middle of this garden. The walker has no way of seeing or knowing if he is on the true path. He who has reached the portico, however, sees all the paths before him. He can warn those who walk upon them and tell them where to go.

We might be blind walkers traveling the confusing paths of life. But we can choose to turn for guidance to those who have more clarity. When we can’t see, they can see for us. And then, we can stand up and give testimony for all of God’s gifts they help us benefit from.

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