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BlogElul Day 9: See

Rabbi Akiva Tatz relates a story he received from Rabbi Moshe Shirken, about two men trapped in a cage, one sighted and one blind. The sighted man sits still, unable or unwilling to even try to escape. The blind man is unwilling to be so passive, and he carefully feels his way around until he finds an opening big enough for him to fit through.

So far, we understand the point of this story (or think we do, at least), in the context of “seeing”. Perhaps, we think to ourselves, the cage has no light, and so the blind man is actually more able to see than the man who’s sight is in tact. Or perhaps the story is about the difference between passively seeing and actively looking.

But Rabbi Tatz continues: As soon as the blind man is free of the cage, he is set upon by a wild beast that has been quietly waiting for the chance to strike. The blind man, for all his motivation and determination, was lost because there were critical pieces of information he simply didn’t have.

At this point in the story, we can begin to build another understanding – one which includes an element of caution to those who take action without realizing that they are working with an incomplete set of data.

But of course, the question you should be asking yourself is: “Why didn’t the sighted man say anything?” If he did, and the blind man ignored him, then that was a fairly important part of the story Rabbi Tatz left out. If he didn’t, then we have to presume the sighted man was a complete jerk, and there’s not much more to learn from the story.

But Rabbi Tatz isn’t that kind of storyteller, so I’ll offer another perspective, in the form of a question: Why didn’t the blind man talk about what he was doing, what he found, what his intentions were?

In light of that question, another lesson we can glean from this story is: None of us have the ability to see the whole picture, and we shouldn’t assume that we can. The sighted man could see the beast but not the way out of the cage. The blind man found the means to escape, but not the danger that lay just beyond.

It is only in connecting with one another, in communicating our unique point of view, of believing and acknowledging the truth of each other’s data – only in doing that, together, as a community, will we find our way safely forward. And like the two men in the cage, if any of us lose, we all lose.

Only when we find the way for us all to succeed can any of us succeed.

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