On Seeing, Flow and More

We open our eyes each morning, and see.
But then, if it was so simple, there would be no need to actually command us to do so.
Re’e, see, says the Torah in its first word of this week’s section (and the word has its own, stand-alone trope!). Stop, for G-d’s sake, and actually notice what’s in front of you!
Today. Each day.
There’s “blessing”, and there’s “no blessing”.
And that’s it.
There’s nothing in between. There’s nothing that 50-50, and everything else is by default, one or the other.
There is a midrash based on the space between the verse, “and Abraham lifted his eyes and saw that place”, and the next verse, when he instructs the lads with him to stay with the donkey (Genesis 22:4-5). What happened that’s missing from the text? Supposedly, Abraham saw G-d’s presence on the mountain. He checked in with Isaac, who told him he too saw the same thing. Then he asked the lads accompanying them who said they saw nothing. He then told them to stay with “donkey”. The word for donkey in Hebrew, chamor, comes from the same root as chomer, materialism. Real seeing is therefore much deeper than just noticing “stuff” around us as is.
And what are “blessing” and “curse” (in the singular)?
We can look at the root for bracha (blessing) & klala (curse), respectfully. Rav Hirsch connects the b.r.ch root to p.r.ch and p.r.k. Without getting overly technical, a number of the Hebrew words starting with p.r. have to do with things coming apart. The b.r. have a similar connection but with a motion forward, a flow. Thus we find bara, create; barak, a flash or lightening; berech, the knee joint; and brecha, a pool of water, all related.
Bracha, says Hirsch, is “a condition of unarrested development, of progressive prosperity”. This is what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his 1990 book describes as Flow, the optimal experience.
What would be its opposite? The Hebrew for klala is related to kilkel, to spoil or ruin something, and klokel (spoiled, but also empty). We can learn about this from another “opposite”: kavod, honor, comes from the same root as weight, heavy. For things to matter, they have to have presence and take some space. So the opposite to blessing is not only stagnation, which maybe still implies a struggle to move ahead, but more like apathy, emptiness. The worst thing is to be nothing while the ultimate happiness, “blessing”, is to be part of Flow.
And one more word: the word following the opening re’e, see, is anochi, a fancy way to say “I” (like in the Ten Commandments). Originally intended for G-d, some commentators stretch to suggest that the seeing depends on the “I”, like when holding our hand, or a coin, in front of our eyes, and a small object can cover the whole view. What’s between us and that which we see? The Torah is big on choice: we can choose, today, every day, who we are, how we see things and what’s in our life.
Shabbat Shalom.

This entry was posted in life and some, shabbat shalom, פרשת השבוע לחילוני האדוק and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On Seeing, Flow and More

  1. Avi Caspi says:

    What a talent , really


  2. janis lightman says:

    Michal, loved it – it really flowed!  

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