Part of Judaism’s daily morning liturgy includes a blessing that thanks God for “opening the eyes of the blind.” It’s recited by everyone regardless of whether you’re actually, technically, literally blind, or have 20/20 vision. It’s a reminder that we can walk through life with eyes wide open and still not really “see.”
Today I taught a class for 5th graders. It’s a class I teach on a monthly basis. The yearlong course has 1 simple goal: to deepen our understanding. To deepen our understanding of one another, of Jewish tradition, of life in general, and, perhaps most importantly, our self-understanding.
The idea that we don’t automatically arrive at a place of deep self-understanding is fairly obvious for adults, but it can be a bit counterintuitive for kids.
We started class with a “get to know you” game to which one student responded, “But we already know each other.”
As we debriefed together at the end of class I asked the student if she still held to her claim that they already know each other. She and others started to realize that just because they’ve been in school together for six years, just because they know some things about one another, there’s much that they actually don’t know about one another. Just because our eyes are open doesn’t mean we actually “see.”
In that same debrief another student made the point that sometimes she feels that other people know her better than she knows herself. It was a really “insightful” comment and something I know resonates with most, if not all, of us. Just as having open eyes doesn’t equate with truly “seeing,” sometimes our own eyes aren’t the best vehicle for showing us what’s going on inside of ourselves. Together we can help one another see.
God came up during class today as well. One student expressed his belief that, according to the Torah, God sees everything. His comment reminded me of one of my favorite films, Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors (see the clip below, NB: it’s kind of a heavy moment in the film and not necessarily suitable for kids). Part of God’s godliness is that God isn’t limited to a single, finite, human perspective.
Insofar as I have a clearly formulated idea of God I think that the idea that God has infinite perspective is a key for me. The beautiful flip side is that our human perspective is inherently single, finite, and (duh) human. For the most part we see with our eyes and our eyes alone. The eye is undeniably a miraculous organ, but it is definitely limited in terms of what it can take in. When we let others help us to see ourselves and our world more clearly we actually transcend our naturally limited human-ness. Bringing this line of thought to it’s conclusion, our collective seeing and sighting is a way that human beings can, together, draw nearer to God.