Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Tazria/Metsorah 5769- Holy disease…

This week two parshiot are read as one, and they share a common theme- that of Tzarahat- the disease that Hashem sends as a punishment towards a person who has committed one fo several sins.  The first mention of tzarahat is with Miriam, when she speaks out against the wife of Moshe.  Lashon HaRa, is seen as the primary course of tzarahat, though various other opinions are given as to its cause: amongst them murder, idolatary and sexual immorality.

In the midrash d’Rabbi Alshich there is an interesting midrash on tzarahas.  He point out that it starts off with “Ki ADAM”- rather than “Ki  ISH”.  What is the significance of using ADAM instead of ISH for man?  R’ Alshich states that ISH is generic, it refers to any man whereas the Torah uses ADAM when it is talking about somebody on a higher spiritual level.  Why is ADAM used here then?  Why do we see Hashem punishing the more spiritually elevated with tzarahas rather than just the normal everyday people?  Surely the people who are at a less of an elevated spiritual level would occasion this kind of punishment more?  Why is it aimed more at the righteous?  The Midrash here sees that as the exact reason that tzarahas is addressed to the righteous.  It is not so much a punishment but a wake-up call to the person.  A kick in the posterior to say “Hey, wake up, you are sinning and need to repent.”  To the person who is not righteous, it would just be one sin amongst many, one blemish amongst so many others that it has no effect.  On the righteous person, the spiritual blemish is so noticeable that it has a physical manifestation!  Due to this, the cure for it is not found in doctors, herbs or medicines.  The Torah does not state that there is a physical cure for it, rather, a Kohen, not a medical doctor, pronounces on it.  The cure is nothing physical but isolation during which time the person can review their behaviour, realise what they are doing wrong and thus repent, curing their spiritual blemish and thus their physical one.

The commentaries on parshas Metsorah state that it seems this parshah is out of place because when a person is afflicted with tzarahas it is first the house, then their clothes and only then their body that is afflicted, each manifestation coming closer to the essence of the person and hopefully starting the repentance process sooner.  Yet Parhas Metsorah with its description of tzarahas of the house and possessions comes after Parshas Tazria and its description of tzarahas of the body.  One explanation given is that the Torah concerns itself first with the most important matter the “ikkar hadavar”, and then goes on to the less important ones.  At the end of the day- the most important matter is the atonement of the individual, their realising their sin, repenting and removing that spiritual blemish.

Given all of this, what can we take out of this, especialy considering we are now busy counting the omer?  Let us think of what the omer represents.  The time between the exodus and Matan Torateinu was one of spiritual ascendance.  The people purified themselves, raised themselves from the depths of degradation they had sunk to in Egypt to the spiritual level where were able to stand before Har Sinai and hear the voice of G-d.  An amazing demonstration of Teshuvah and forgiveness and how genuine Teshuvah not only repairs the damage in the relationship between Man and Hashem but makes it even stronger!  What was the essence of this Teshuvah process?  Not sacrifice or fasting, at the end of the day both of those are just elements that can be part of the Teshuvah process.  Rather, the essence was in the contemplation of themselves.  In their examining their characters, their actions, their words, deeds and thought;  recognising their faults and correcting them.  Similarly for the metsorah in his isolation- his repentance was no physical thing but a contemplation and recognition of where they were and what they needed to correct.  Similarly for us, as we move from reliving the redemption from Egypt to reliving the receiving of the Torah, we can look at ourselves, contemplate ourselves, and correct those elements which are lacking.  As I said to a friend recently: repentance is not confined to Yom Kippur, it can be done at any time!

So, as you count the omer, contemplate the combinations of the sefirot that some siddurim print next to each count, let that be a prompt to examine yourself and to elevate yourself for Zman Matan Torateinu!

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April 16, 2009 - Posted by | Torah | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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