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Open my eyes, and I will behold...

    Tammuz 2, 5769

Vision and Exile

Seeing past appearances

by John J. Parsons

Psalm 119:18 BHS

Uncover my eyes, that I may behold wonders from your Torah.
(Psalm 119:18)

THERE IS A DISTINCTION BETWEEN appearance and reality, between what seems to be real and what really is real. In the realm of everyday physical objects, for example, we regularly make assumptions about things that, upon closer inspection, are shown to be less certain. For example, we might describe a billiard ball as having a certain color or a smooth texture, but if we look through a microscope at the ball, we would see irregularities in the surface and variations in color. The ball, as we initially perceived it, does not match the new information we obtained after we've taken a closer look.  Wisdom bears in mind the distinction between seeming and reality, and thereby avoids quick judgments.

How we choose to see often says more about us than it does the thing we're looking at. To those without faith in its words, the Scriptures appear as the product of a human hand, devoid of any special sanctity, and fully explainable using a set of "natural" assumptions. But to those whose eyes are "uncovered," the words of Scripture are full of glorious wonders about the unseen world. The veil is pulled back and we are given a glimpse of reality and truth.

The Scriptures reveal that the natural world of appearance, subject as it is to constant change and decay, is ultimately unreal: "For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18). There is a spiritual world that overrules this world and to which this world will one day give account.  This is the vision of the great "City of God," heavenly Jerusalem, and the final reckoning of human history.  The reality of God will trump all other interpretations of life.

Duncan Long's Heavenly Jerusalem

We might expect our verse to read, "Uncover my eyes and I will behold wonders in your Torah," but the text actually says "from your Torah."  We read the Scriptures in order to discern God's wonders in the world around us.  This is sometimes called da'at Torah – the "knowledge of Torah" that gives the correct "hashkafah" or outlook on life.  Faith reveals the hidden hand of God in all things and discloses the deceptive nature of the world of appearances. Indeed, the verb "uncover" (galah) is related to the word "captivity" (galut), suggesting that the uncovering of our eyes reveals our state of exile from our true home in heaven. "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come" (Heb. 13:14).

Today's new atheists are a miltant bunch, going so far as to imply that if you believe in God, it's a form of mass psychosis. "You're out of your mind! You're crazy!" The Apostle Paul answers: "If we are insane, it's for God's sake; and if we are sane, it's for yours" (2 Cor. 5:13). Those who believe in the Scriptures – whose eyes are "uncovered" – sometimes feel (and often appear) "crazy" before an insane world.  After all, the world traffics in images, sound bites, fleeting sensations, and various illusions, but we testify that all such appearances ultimately answer to a higher reality. This collision is part of the "normal" life of the person who "walks by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7).

May it please God to impart to us a "divine discontent" of this world so that we may behold more wonders from His Torah.  Amen.

Hebrew-English Transliteration:

Hebrew-English transliteration

Gal eynai v'abita niflaot mi'toratecha

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