Dreaming of Moshiach

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Seeing Blind Man

There once was a blind man who lived in Mea Shearim, a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem. This man was quite old, and he was very poor. Because of his blindness he had never married and so he had no children to look after him. Because he was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust, he had no relatives to help him, either. Yet he was always smiling.

The blind man received help from a young man who volunteered his time a couple of times a week. The two would often talk about this and that, and after a while the young man could no longer contain his curiosity. "Your life has been so difficult," the young man said. "How is it possible that you are always so happy?"

"I have to answer this by telling you a story," the blind man replied. "When I was young, back in Europe, I studied in Radin at the yeshiva of the Chofetz Chaim. At that time there were no holy books written in Braille, and so it was very difficult for me to learn.

"I was always angry and in a black mood," the blind man continued, "because I had been born blind and my life was so difficult. Then one day a story began to circulate throughout the halls of the yeshiva and when the story finally reached my ears, it changed my life."

A young couple had come to the Chofetz Chaim, the leader of the Jewish People a century ago, crying hysterically. The wife had just given birth to a son, and the child had been born missing one hand.

"Why did this happen to us?" they pleaded.

The Chofetz Chaim replied that in order to answer their question, he would have to tell them a story.

Once there was a Jew who worked very hard to improve all his personality traits. He really made an effort to get everything right in his lifetime, so that he wouldn't have to come back again. And, indeed, when he reached the age of 70 and passed over to the World of Truth, the Heavenly Tribunal agreed that here was an exceptionally fine neshama (soul) that deserved immediate entrance into Paradise.

At the moment when the verdict was about to be sealed, the Satan came forward and said, "What do you mean? This neshama was never able to control its anger. When the man got angry with his kids, he would give them a slap. How can you let him go straight to Gan Eden when he never completed his tikkun (repair)?"

The Heavenly Tribunal had to agree that the Satan was in the right, and so they decided to send the neshama back to the world below. The neshama, upon hearing this decree, was distraught.

"Please don't send me back," it pleaded. "I'd rather do my penance in Gehinnom (hell) than have to go back to that vale of tears. I worked so hard on myself all my life, please have pity on me and don't send me back."

"Sorry," the Heavenly Tribunal replied, "but Gehinnom is for different types of sins. The only way you can cleanse sins against other people is to be amongst people. You have to go back."

"But how do I know I'll succeed in doing my tikkun?" the neshama asked. "I'm going to have the same problem when I go back and because the soul forgets, how will I know I'm supposed to work on my anger? I need something - a reminder - so that I won't fail again."

"What do you suggest?" the Court asked.

"Let me be born with some handicap," the neshama begged, "something that will make me humble and remind me that no one - including myself - is perfect. That way, even if I do get angry, I won't feel like hurting anyone."

"God only creates good," the Court replied. "Why do you ask for something bad and ask God to suffer on your account?"

"Please help me," was all the Jew's neshama could reply.

The Chofetz Chaim now turned to the distraught parents and said, "Because the neshama had striven so hard to be a tzaddik, God relented and created its new body with a handicap. Can you guess what this handicap was?"

The parents didn't have a clue and so they shook their heads, "no."

"This neshama was born in a body without a hand," the Chofetz Chaim continued. "Your son is this neshama, and your task is to teach your son about God's kindness and love, and help him succeed in doing his tikkun for his anger."

The father of the child got up angrily from his seat.

"I don't know what you're talking about," the father said. "All this talk about the neshama, souls coming back - who cares? All I know is that this world is tough enough when you're whole and our child was born without a hand. What kind of kindness is that?"

The parents left the Chofetz Chaim full of anger - and they gave over this anger to their son. By the time the child was seven, he was angry at the world. Whenever he got the chance, he would strike out with his one good hand.

The blind man sat lost in thought for a few moments and then he slowly turned to the young man.

"The Chofetz Chaim was unable to help that boy," said the blind man, "but his story did help me. I began to think: 'Who knows how many tears I cried in Heaven - how much I pleaded to be given some sort of sign - so that I could do my tikkun?' How could I be angry with God, when He gave my neshama exactly what it asked for?

"I now understood that God gave me all the tools I need to do my tikkun," the blind man continued. "If I was unable to marry and have children because of my blindness, that means my tikkun did not lie in those areas. If I do not have wealth, why should I cry? It only means my job is not to give a lot of charity.

"Once I was able to see all this," the blind man concluded, "it only made sense that I should be happy. Because who wouldn't be happy, when they know that God has given them everything they need?"





והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו