News item from Jerusalem — It’s the latest prescription for ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who shun contact with the opposite sex: Glasses that blur their vision, so they don’t have to see women they consider to be immodestly dressed. Glasses with special blur-inducing stickers on their lenses are going for the “modest” price of $6. The glasses provide clear vision for up to a few meters so as not to impede movement, but anything beyond that gets blurry – including women.
This news item was forwarded to me this past week on the day that we learned in Kabbalah Review the following teaching from the Ba’al Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement:
“If one suddenly finds himself looking at a beautiful woman he should reflect on the source of her beauty. When she is dead surely she will no longer have such a face. So where does her beauty come from? It comes from a divine power emanating in her. So the root of her beauty is divine. Why would I be drawn after the surface when I can cleave to the root essence of the worlds where beauty is sourced?”
So there are two very distinct approaches and the Kabbalah as taught by the Chassidic masters recommended the approach of engagement with the world. Does this mean that one should never avert one’s eyes? I believe that even the Ba’al Shem Tov might suggest restraint under certain circumstances—for both men and women. One needs to know what one can elevate and when one needs to set boundaries.
As a philosophy of life though, the Ba’al Shem Tov would not sully his sense of the good inherent in all people by distorting his vision to see the good [spell check suggested changing this to see that well—seeing the good is seeing well], to look at all people with a “good eye.”.
For those men who need these glasses they may be doing just what they need to do as they don’t see a way to elevate their perceptions. It is far better than what we have witnessed, all too often, from men who act with aggression toward women rather than bringing the focus onto themselves and their emotional limitations. Six dollars well spent.
KE, which can also stand for Kabbalah Engagement can now have a new vision statement based on the principle the Ba’al Shem Tov taught many times over—engage with beauty, with ugliness and everything in-between. If we truly appreciate our interconnectedness then we will appreciate the divine in all its manifestations, seek engagement and save the six dollars.
P.S The Hebrew letter that equals six in gematriyah is the letter Vav—a vav is a hook—and the letter that is used grammatically to infer “and.” Vav—six is the letter that signifies our connections.