ולא נתן ה’ לכם לב לדעת ועינים לראות ואזניים לשמוע עד היום הזה
(דברים, כ”ט, ג’)
An oft-repeated story among rabbis and teachers talks about the student who was searching for spirituality. He fails to find it in the yeshiva so he leaves and travels the world, near and far, in search of real spirituality. Upon returning from his travels he goes to his rabbi and says he failed to find it. The rabbi then tells him that for him to find spirituality he must first understand what spirituality is, otherwise he won’t recognize it even if it hit him in the face. The student then returns to his studies and find the spirituality that was there all along.
I was reminded of this story while reading this week’s parasha. A very strange passuk appears in it. Moshe reminds the People of Israel about the miracles they witnessed in Egypt, all the great signs and wonders they experienced, and then says:
But God has not given you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, until this day.
(Devarim 29, 3)
What does Moshe mean “until this day”? Surely people who saw water turning to blood, fiery hail falling from the sky, the sea parting, and countless other miracles, would know what their eyes saw and ears heard. Why is it that only now, 40 years later, do the people finally get the gift of knowledge from God and understand those were true miracles?
Moshe is teaching us a very important lesson here. A person might be surrounded by miracles, and at the same time be unable to comprehend them. A person might witness miraculous happenings, and explain them away with logical reasoning. Unless he focuses his mind and his heart to comprehend these miracles, he will continue to live an uninspired life.
The same idea appears in another place in our parasha. When talking about the blessings, the Torah says: “And all these blessings shall come upon you, and overtake you, if you shall listen to the voice of the Lord your God” (28, 2). Why the repetition “and overtake you”? Here too, a person might be surrounded by blessings and not realize it, until he focuses his mind and his heart by listening to the voice of God. Only then will he realize how blessed he is.
There is so much truth in this. Just this week, the world stood horrified at the picture of the drowned Syrian refugee boy whose body was washed to the shore in Turkey. Even if only for a short while, we were reminded how blessed we are to have our health, our family, our comfortable existence. We take these blessings for granted, but it is not until some external force compels us to take a pause and focus, that we realize their full value.
It is not enough to see miracles. It is not enough to be blessed. We must open our hearts and minds to let their full meaning become clear to us, just like the student who failed to realize he was surrounded by spirituality all along.