Rabbi Yonasan Sacks
The Gift of Vision
The complex nature of man is evident in his creation. The Medrash Rabbah (8:11) explains, "Rabbi Yehoshua bar Nachmeini beshaim Rabbi Chanina bar Yitschak v'Rabbanan beshaim Rabbi Elazar amri, bara bo arba briyos milema'ala varaba milematan." In certain ways man resembles an animal, in others, however, he is compared to an angel. Man eats, drinks, multiplies and excretes like an animal. He stands erect, speaks, exhibits intelligence, and sees like an angel. The Midrash asks, "ubeheima aina roeh? Atmeha! Ela ze metsaded - is it true that an animal does not see? Rather, unlike an animal, man posses peripheral vision"
This poignant Midrash distinguishes between the sight of animals and the vision of man. Whereas an animal can only see that which is directly before it, man is capable of angelic perception, discernment and perspective. Man's broad visual field and foresightedness enables and challenges him to emulate the angels.
Rav Soloveitchik linked this midrash to others which contrast the vision of tzadikim and reshoim. The Yalkut Shimoni (Parshas Balak, 765) explains, "noach loreshaim sheyihiyu sumin, she'eineihem m'vi'im maareh laolam, 'vatereh haisha ki tov haeitz l'maachal...' uksiv, 'vayaar Cham avi Canaan'...aval tzadikim yirru vyismachu, 'vayisa einav vayar vhinei shlosha anashim'...'vayar es hamakom meirachok' - better that the evil doers should be blind, for their sight brings curse to the world, 'and the woman saw that the tree was good for eating...' (Braishis 3:6)... 'Cham, the father of Canaan, saw his father's nakedness (Braishis 9:22)...however the righteous will see and be glad. 'He lifted his eyes and saw, and behold three men were standing over him' (Braishis 18:2). 'On the third day Avraham raised his eyes and saw that place from afar' (Braishis 22:4)."
Cham and Canaan used the gift of vision to disgrace and shame Noach. Canaan was therefore punished, "arur Canaan eved laavodim yihiye le'echav - cursed is Canaan, a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers" (Braishis 9:25). A slave who is under constant control of his master has limited vision and aspiration, and awaits a bleak destiny.
Avraham Avinu, however, lifts his eyes and searches for opportunities to perform chessed. Even at a time of nisayon, he is able to perceive Har Hamoriyah from afar.
As descendants of Avraham Avinu, we must hone our vision liros beTuv Hashem, to see the goodness of Hashem. Undoubtedly, each of us is capable of such greatness, for we were created with angelic vision.