Friday, July 20, 2007


You may well remember the “Magic eye” 3D-poster craze from a few years back. At first, those stereograms looked like random coloured patterns splashed across a page. Once you stared at them for a while, though, you could make out a 3D picture.

Remember how many people would stare and stare and simply not see the 3D picture (you may have been one of them)? They would either become frustrated or accuse you of having them on, because there really was no 3D picture to see.

Modern science claims that this happens to us daily. We look at what is around us, and only consciously perceive a fraction of what we see. So, when people try to convince us that there’s more to life than meets the eye, we don’t buy it.

Which reminds me of a very important story.

It wasn’t long after the Roman destruction of the Temple, when a group of Talmudic Sages walked along the rubble-strewn Temple Mount. One can only imagine the immense sadness they must have felt as they surveyed the ravaged remains of Judaism’s holiest site.

When a fox darted out from the debris of the Holy of Holies, it was too much for them to handle. The rabbis cried bitterly. Rabbi Akivah, who was also there, laughed.

“Why are you laughing?” they challenged him.

“Why are you crying?” he retorted.

“How can we not cry,” the Rabbis asked, “when we see a fox exit the spot that was always off-bounds to all but the holiest Jew, the High Priest, on the holiest day of Yom Kippur?”

“That,” said Rabbi Akivah, “is why I laugh!”

“There are two prophecies,” Rabbi Akivah explained, “Uriah predicted that the Temple Mount would be plowed over like a field. Zechariah prophesied that Jerusalem would, once again, regain its stature and glory. Until I saw the fulfillment of Uriah’s prophecy, I was unsure that Zechariah’s prophecy would be fulfilled.”

Hearing that, the Rabbis remarked: “Akivah, you have comforted us.”

On the face of it, this is a particularly strange story. Yet, it provides an essential insight into the unique Jewish take on life.

When the Romans destroyed the Temple, they didn’t just demolish an important building. They disconnected the portal that connects heaven and earth. They disrupted the direct line of communication that Jews had with G-d and He with them. They snuffed out the light of the world, heralding 2000 years of anti-Semitism, plunder, pogroms.

To the rabbis, this was the devastating picture they saw that day on the Temple Mount. They saw a chaotic mess of incongruent colour splashed onto the canvas where a masterpiece had just been.

Rabbi Akivah was able to look deeper, beyond appearances. He saw the 3D picture that would emerge from that chaos. Yes, he felt the pain. Sure, he mourned the loss. But, he also saw beyond- that the destruction was also the seed of a higher, greater process.

Rabbi Akivah perceived that the fast day of Tisha B’Av is also the birth of Moshiach.

Spiritual as they were, the other rabbis couldn’t see that perspective, until Rabbi Akivah showed it to them.

We still battle to see the full picture.

To our eyes there is chaos, crime, illness and global terrorism. We see a loss of moral direction, a crumbling of ethics, a lack of world leadership.

We have much to mourn this Tisha B’Av. But, just before that, Hashem gives us a Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbos of vision. The Shabbos prior to Judaism’s day of national mourning is so named, because that’s when He allows us a momentary glimpse into the meaning behind the madness. Shabbat Chazon briefly opens our eyes to see a higher purpose.

Our wish is that Hashem allows that vision to become our reality this year.

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