One of the Torah’s recurring themes is that a community consists of individuals looking past themselves, and seeing the other:
לֹא תִרְאֶה אֶת שׁוֹר אָחִיךָ אוֹ אֶת שֵׂיוֹ נִדָּחִים וְהִתְעַלַּמְתָּ מֵהֶם הָשֵׁב תְּשִׁיבֵם לְאָחִיךָ – Do not see your brother’s ox or sheep straying and ignore them – you should return them to your brother. (22:4)
This law is in line with the Torah’s vision – but the way the Torah phrases it is instructive.
If the key message is not ignoring things, why does the law start with “Don’t see,” instead of “Don’t ignore”?
The Sfas Emes answers that “seeing” is not a purely a visual function. Seeing also requires the mental and emotional aspects of perception and understanding.
The Torah does not charge us with a simple instruction against ignoring – it charges us with changing the way we look at things.
לֹא תִרְאֶה … וְהִתְעַלַּמְתָּ – Don’t see […] and ignore!
The Torah demands that we free our vision of blindness. We must see, notice, feel, and respond in kind.