Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why Do All Rabbis Wear Glasses?

Question of the Week:
Why do all rabbis seem to wear glasses? Obviously you do a lot of reading and studying Torah, which must strain your eyes. But I am sure there is some deeper significance to the fact that all rabbis and their students seem to be bearded and bespectacled...


There is a great advantage in always wearing a hat, a beard and glasses. Your picture can never be defaced. No one can squiggle anything on it, because you've left nothing for them to add.

But you're right, there must be something significant about rabbis wearing glasses. Maybe it's this.

Wearing glasses doesn't actually change anything. If you look at a scene without your glasses, and then look at the very same scene with your glasses on, it is exactly the same scene. Nothing has been added. The scene hasn't changed, but your view of it has changed completely.

Without glasses the world is all fuzzy and blurred. You don't recognise people, you can't read signs, and there are many obstacles that you may bump into on your way, simply because you didn't see them coming.

Then you put on your glasses, and a new world opens up to you. Everything's clear, you recognise things for what they are, and you foresee the bumps and obstacles before you stumble upon them. It was all there before, but now you have vision and perspective, now you can see it.

The Torah is like a pair of glasses. Its divine wisdom gives us clarity of vision. It develops our ability to identify good and evil, and differentiate between truth and falsehood. It teaches us to recognise the good in people, even when that good is not so apparent. And it sensitises us to the subtleties of life, to see beyond the superficial and find deeper meaning in our everyday experiences, to read the signs that point us in the right direction, to avoid moral pitfalls and behold the beauty of the world around us.

The Torah student lives in the same world as everybody else. He faces the same challenges, suffers from the same weaknesses, experiences the same pain and is plagued by the same questions. The Torah does not provide some magical relief from the vicissitudes of life. But it does provide perspective and clarity, direction and inspiration, which allow us to see those challenges in a new light, and face them with a deeper resolve.

Perhaps that's why students of Torah end up wearing glasses. Their vision is sharpened as they wear spiritual spectacles. Until you try them on, you don't know what you're missing.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss
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