The Eyes of Doves
By Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
The silent rush of air passing over feathered wings at a thousand feet. A dove flies high over the fields, its eyes probing the distance. Looming out of the morning mist a haystack about a quarter mile ahead. A lone dove in an unfriendly sky. No other birds in sight. It scrutinizes the sky with its piercing gaze. Will it be safe to land? The dove has no talons. Its wings will not carry it fast enough to escape its many predators. The eyes of a dove are its only protection.
The Torah is the blueprint of reality. Through this blueprint, the great Rabbis of every generation have illuminated and elucidated the world we live in. They know this blueprint to a depth and subtlety which is almost beyond comprehension. They can see into the depths of the world's construction just like a builder visualizes a building by looking at its blueprint. Nothing is new to them because everything is in the Torah. G-d gives these Torah sages a power - a distant hint of prophecy - to guide the Jewish People. It is they who can read His "guidebook" better than anyone else. Everything is contained in the Torah, either explicitly or covertly, but it takes a Rabbi Akiva, a Maharal or a Vilna Gaon to be able to accurately extract its meaning and apply it to a contemporary context. The greatTalmidei Chachamim (Torah Scholars) of every generation are given a unique insight into the ways of the world. This qualifies them to lead the Jewish People as no one else can.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's students asked, "why did the Jews of Persia deserve Haman's decree of annihilation?" They answered "because they benefited from the meal of that evil Achashverosh." To flaunt his power and wealth, Achashverosh decided to throw a party of mind-boggling dimensions that lasted for six months. At the end of this party, Achashverosh threw another party for all who were present in Shushan the capital. Mordechai issued a ban on attending the feast even though the food was kosher. Mordechai knew that there was something very non-kosher about this meal.
The prophet Yirmiyahu had prophesied that the Babylonian exile would end after seventy years. Achashverosh was aware of this prophecy, and according to his calculations seventy years had already passed. Emboldened by this, he took out the holy vessels of the Temple at his feast and caroused with them. Despite Mordechai's ban on the feast, the Jewish People ignored him. They surmised that it would be considered an unforgivable sleight to the king's honor were they not to attend. Conventional wisdom would have agreed with them. Wasn't this a case of a life-threatening situation, which made it not just permissible, but a mitzvah to attend the feast?
But Mordechai's decree was not based on gut feeling nor conventional wisdom. It was based on Torah wisdom, reality seen through Torah knowledge.
Conventional wisdom and gut feeling would have put all the blame on Mordechai. Surely, what provoked Haman to issue his genocidal decree against the Jewish People was his fury when Mordechai refused to bow to him. Wasn't it Mordechai himself who placed the Jewish People in jeopardy by his stiff-necked refusal to bow? Wasn't this another case of a life-threatening situation calling for the temporary abrogation of Torah law?
Conventional wisdom would also have dictated that Esther reveal her Jewish background to Achashverosh so that he would favor the Jews. And yet Esther's hiding of her identity, on Mordechai's instructions, was a key factor in the redemption.
In the Song of Songs the verse states, "Your eyes are doves." The Midrash tells us that "your eyes" refers to the Sanhedrin, the supreme legislative body of the Jewish People. The Sanhedrin are the "eyes of the congregation." They can see behind the mask of reality, beyond the grasp of mere conventional wisdom.
The power of leadership flows from the people. In every generation G-d promises us there will be spiritual leaders, great Torah sages, who are given by G-d the ability to advise and direct the nation. However, when the Jewish People refuse to listen to these spiritual giants, following instead after politicians and those with no more insight than the rest of us, then our spiritual leaders become powerless to influence or to help. When G-d told Moshe to go and speak to Pharaoh, he said:"Behold, the Children of Yisrael have not listened to me, so how should Pharaoh listen to me? And I have sealed lips." (Shemot 6:12) If the Jewish People had listened to Moshe, his mouth and lips would have been opened and his words would have affected even Pharaoh, but since the Children of Yisrael did not listen, Moshe's "lips were sealed."
A Torah Scholar is not just someone you go and ask whether or not your chicken is kosher. A Torah Scholar is someone who knows the nature of every action, thought and word. Is it kosher? Is it "fit?" The modern world lionizes non-conventionality. What is truly unconventional is the wisdom of our great Rabbis. It is bounded neither by the mores or the exigencies of the moment. Implicit in the command of "Hear O Yisrael!" is the understanding that G-d speaks to us through his appointed emissaries at all times and in all places.