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"If because of the eyes of the assembly it was done unintentionally, the entire assembly shall prepare one young bull as an elevation-offering for a satisfying aroma to Hashem, and its meal-offering and its libation according to the rule, and one he-goat as a sin-offering" (Bemidbar 15:24).

The Talmud explains that "the eyes of the assembly" refers to the leaders of the generation who are blessed with an extraordinary insight and can "see" things much more clearly than others.

My Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Mendel Kravitz z"l, once told me a story about the great Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman ztvk"l, who foresaw a tragedy which was to come a decade later. When I asked him how he could have known, my Rosh Yeshiva asked me in return what does a person do when he wants to see further than his eyes are able too. I replied that he gets up on his toes. "What if he still can't see?" he continued. "He might climb on to a chair," I answered. "And if he still can't?" he persisted. "He would climb on top of a table," I said.

"Precisely," he responded. "We see from this that the higher a person is, the further he can see. Understand then," he concluded, "that a Torah sage is called an adam gadol - a great man. This indicates that he is 'taller' than others. Consequently, he can see much further than all of us can."

There were only several times that I questioned the wisdom and accuracy of my Rebby's advice. Every time I did, though, Hashem showed me on the spot that he was right.

I was once involved in the proposal of a shidduch (a marriage partner) between a wonderful girl and one of my Rebby's sons. The mother of the girl said that she needed a month to give an answer whether or not she was interested in the two meeting. More than a month had passed when I was visiting my Rebby at his home in Brooklyn and I was upset with the mother for not having kept her word. When I expressed my exasperation, in rather strong words, my Rebby smiled and said to me, "Why don't you understand? My son learned in Yeshivas Ponevezh, in Bnei Brak, Israel. The mother wrote a letter to one of the heads of the yeshiva asking about the boy being proposed to her daughter. She assumed that she would get a reply within a month and so she promised us an answer by then. However, she has not yet received a response from Israel, so she cannot tell us anything, as much as she would like to."

I heard the logic in my Rebby's explanation but I was very much bothered by the confidence with which he expressed it. He hadn't even said "maybe" this and this happened. He was so sure of what he had said that he declared it as a fact. I didn't say a word but I snuck into the next room and phoned the mother. When I asked her why she had not kept her promise to give us an answer within a month she replied, "Rabbi Sobel, I, too, am upset that I wasn't able to keep my word. But what can I do? I wrote a letter to one of the heads of the yeshiva of Ponevezh asking about the boy being proposed to my daughter. I had assumed that I would get a reply within a month and so I promised you an answer by then. However, I've not yet received a response from Israel, so I cannot tell you anything, as much as I would like to."

Red faced and ashamed, I went back into the other room and apologized to my Rebby for having doubted his superior wisdom.

The Midrash (Devarim Rabbah, 1:10) tells a parable of a snake whose tail complained to the head that it always has to follow it. "I want to lead for once!" the tail protested. The foolish head allowed it to do so. However, having no eyes, the tail walked into brambles and fire and fell into a pit of water. Both of them suffered because the rightful leader was not trusted by its followers.

The Torah teaches us to put our faith in the Torah giants who are, in truth, "the eyes of the assembly." If we follow their advice we will be truly happy in this world and in the World-to-Come.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel