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    Seeing & believing

    menorah lightsThe Chanukah blessings are followed by HaNerot Halalu, a meditation about the lights we kindle.

    It is both a moment of spirituality and a halachic summary reminding us that the Chanukah lights are to be looked at and not to be used.

    There is quite a different rule concerning the Shabbat lights, which are not only there to be seen but to bring illumination to the home.

    There are other differences between the two types of lights, but that is for another occasion. Today let us focus on the rule that says the Chanukah lights are to be seen.

    On a deeper level this law is telling us that we need two gifts in order to see – sight and insight.

    The distinction is made in a Midrash about the Binding of Isaac.

    Approaching Mount Moriah, Abraham asks his servants, “What do you see?” Their answer, put in colloquial English, is, “What do we see? Another old hill!” He turns to Isaac and asks the same question. Isaac’s answer is, “I see a majestic mountain with clouds entwined about its summit!”

    To the servants Abraham now says, “Isaac and I will go yonder, but you stay here with the donkey. Donkeys have no spiritual perception and neither do you.”

    The servants had sight – but little insight.

    I am often reminded of this distinction when the media report on Israel. They see a troublesome little Middle East state: we see Biblical prophecy come true, Divine promises fulfilled, a stage in the unfolding of world redemption.

    We see Israel’s defects and deficiencies; we also see visions of what Israel can and will be.

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