Judaism is replete with examples of the power of sight. In Jewish law, there is a general rule that one who witnesses an act cannot be a judge regarding it. For example, if you witness a man roughly grab a wallet out of someone’s hand and run away, you cannot later be a judge between these two individuals in court. Now that you have seen what looked like a robbery, you cannot objectively hear any testimony regarding what happened. You can only serve as a witness identifying the man who grabbed the wallet. This is because once we see something, we are convinced of its reality—so much so, that even testimony from several witnesses that the man was in fact only recovering a wallet that had been stolen from him moments before will not change the fact that your eyes saw a robbery.

Once we see something we are convinced of its realityThe power of sight is also reflected in the metaphors for love used throughout the Bible. When an especially close, loving relationship between G‑d and the Jewish people is spoken of, it is described as G‑d’s eyes being directed towards us, or towards the Land of Israel and those who live there. The metaphor is also used to describe the deepest, most intense love between two people—expressed as gazing into one another’s eyes.

The power of sight is also reflected in two “events” which coincide with one another this Shabbat.

This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Chazon. One reason is that this week’s haftorah (the selection from the prophets read after the Torah portion) relates a vision (chazon in Hebrew) seen by Isaiah. It’s a vision of the destruction that will come to Jerusalem, and is one of the three haftorahs of rebuke. Yet, another reason stems from the vision that is shown to each of us on this Shabbat—the vision of the rebirth that is destined to follow the destruction prophesied by Isaiah.

This is also the Shabbat that precedes the ninth of Menachem Av (Tisha B’Av), when we fast in remembrance of the destruction of both Temples. Yet this Shabbat, as we read the Torah portion, every Jew is granted a vision of the third Temple, which will be built (G‑d willing, speedily and soon) in Jerusalem.

The purpose of the vision is much deeper than merely comforting us with the promise of future redemption. In fact, that is the focus of the seven Shabbats after Tisha B’Av. The point of the vision which we see on Shabbat Chazon is to inspire a change so fundamental that we will turn that vision of the third Temple into actual physical reality.

The idea of visualization as a catalyst towards making the vision a reality is not foreign to us. From mock job interviews to self-help books, the “fake it so you can make it” message has permeated our culture. But as a tool for change, does it really work? Wouldn’t any relaxation technique, or a good pep talk, be just as helpful before approaching a new challenge as seeing it through the eyes of one who has already achieved it?

When you visualize a new reality, you internalize itYet there is a real advantage to this. When you visualize a new reality, you internalize it in a way that merely thinking or talking about it won’t accomplish. It becomes something that you know, that you can relate to and understand. A good storyteller understands this, and will use words to paint a picture that the reader can see, and in some cases cannot resist seeing, himself. It’s the ability to create visualization that makes the story something that remains a part of us.

This Shabbat, G‑d takes advantage, so to speak, of this very aspect of human nature: that what we see, even if only with our mind’s eye, lingers with us and affects us so intensely. He shows us a vision of the future He is waiting to give us, and the vision itself becomes the tool with which we make this world ready to actualize it.

The concepts behind this are twofold. On the one hand, the vision of the future is meant to spark within us a desire and longing for seeing that future become our present reality. On the other hand, because it is something which our soul sees, the fact that it actually exists is immediately internalized and becomes a part of us. So we are simultaneously longing for something that is distant from us, and yet inspired by, and at peace with, something whose presence we can sense within us, something we can relate to completely.

The result is that a person is not only able to change; he is entirely unable to remain stagnant. Each of us is forced to move forward in improving our behavior, and it is simply second nature to do so. Moreover, the changes inspired by this Shabbat become permanent.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe emphasized that any and every individual can access this power for change in a tangible way, by meditating this Shabbat on what our soul will see, a vision of a House which will fuse the upper and lower worlds, spiritual and physical reality, in permanent union.

The particular dynamic of this Shabbat—that we receive a divine inspiration in the form of this glimpse of the Temple, and the effort on our part to visualize in our minds and to meditate on what our soul is seeing—mirrors the three Temples themselves.

We weren't really ready for the Temple and its revelationsThe first Temple was filled with a more powerful divine light than the second one. The miracles associated with it are of a much more otherworldly nature. Yet at the same time, our sages tell us that when it was built, G‑d felt a certain anger towards us. We weren’t taking care of the things we needed to take care of, and we weren’t really ready for the Temple and its revelations. It was eventually destroyed.

The first Temple was built by divine command and assistance. The second Temple was constructed at the orders of a human being. The level of revelation associated with it, and the accompanying miracles, were far less intense. Yet, precisely because it came to be built through human efforts and human initiative, it had a greater impact on this world. It was larger than the first Temple, taking up more of this world in terms of space, and it lasted longer, occupying this world for a greater length of time.

The third Temple, like the Shabbat on which we are shown its image, combines the strengths of both the first and second Temples. It combines the divine revelation, an inspiration from above, along with human effort, an inspiration from below, to create a permanent home for G‑dliness. Thus is the lesson and inspiration of this Shabbat. We are given a divinely revealed vision, which we must combine with human efforts, to permanently alter the world we live in—and, even more challenging, ourselves.