TORAH TUESDAYS: PARSHAT TAZRIAH-METZORAH
BY HENNIE BLACK
IN THIS WEEK’S PARSHA, WE LOOK AT THE STRANGE AFFLICTION CALLED TZARA’AT, WHICH COULD APPEAR ON ONE’S SKIN, HOUSE OR CLOTHES.
THE TORAH SPENDS CONSIDERABLE TIME RELATING THE DETAILS AROUND DIAGNOSING AND HEALING THIS SPIRITUAL SICKNESS.
wHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN AND WHAT LESSON ARE THERE FOR US TODAY?
This week, there is a double Torah portion – Tazria and Metzorah, which looks at the detailed technical laws relating to purity and impurity, with a particular focus on the condition called tzara’at. Most erroneously translate tzara’at as leprosy but, in fact, this malady was a spiritual illness that manifested itself physically. As it had its origins in spiritual sickness, it was not diagnosed by a doctor but rather a kohen. Tzara’at was further distinguished by appearing not only on one’s body, but also on one’s home and/or garments.
The person afflicted with tzara’at had to live outside the camp of Israel until he was healed. Once healed, he/she went through a purification process guided by the kohen.
The Talmud lists various reasons for the affliction of tzara’at, the most common one being lashon hara – speaking gossip, slander or in a negative manner toward another.Isolating the person affected with tzara’at gave that person time to reflect on his/her actions, to contemplate on what he/she did wrong and make a commitment to speak more positively in the future.
We are now in the period of counting the Omer, counting the days between Pesach and Shavuot in anticipation of receiving the Torah on Shavuot. How does one become a receptacle for Torah? By refining our character traits so that we are ready each year to receive the Torah.
One of the areas that we can work on—in alignment with this week’s parsha—is focusing on positive speech, avoiding lashon hara and being kinder with our words. King David wrote in Psalms, 34:13-14 “Who is the man who desires life, who loves days of seeing good? Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.”
Regarding the words “who desires life,” Rav Nissan Alpert comments that if someone desires a long life, the secret is to guard one’s tongue from evil and lips from speaking deceit. But what about the words “who loves days of seeing good”? This refers to looking at life with a positive attitude; it means seeing the good in everything and everybody. By doing this, we will be more inclined to speak positively about others and avoid the possibility of engaging in lashon hara.
So many times in life we look at others and we think of their negativities, the deficiencies that they have and how they need to improve. But we do not focus on ourselves to the same extent, on own faults and deficiencies that we ourselves need to work on.
There is a beautiful story attributed to Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, the founder of the Mussar Movement:
“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. But I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my country. When I found I couldn’t change my country, I began to focus on my town. However, I discovered that I couldn’t change my town, and so as I grew older, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself. I’ve come to recognize that, if long ago I had started with myself, I could have made an impact on my family. And my family and I could have made an impact on our town. And that, in turn, could have changed the country and we could all indeed have changed the world.”
If we want to repair the world, we must first look at and within ourselves. What are the traits that I need to improve? How do I want to grow? What do I want to learn? What mitzvah would I like to take on? Once we do this, we will be ready to receive the Torah this Shavuot.
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom.