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Torah Reading: Tazriah (Leviticus 12:1 - 13:59) 
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Communications Breakdown 

Why are our Relationships so Challenged Today?

If our relationships were challenged from the day humans were created, there seems to be a significant exacerbation of tensions and discord in our own day and age. And these tensions seem to be pervasive in all strata of Jewish society and across the entire spectrum of Jews.

What is the cause of this breakdown, and how do we repair it?

One answer to this issue can be found in this week’s parsha which deals with a strange phenomenon called tzara’at. Tzara’at is a skin disease that our Sages teach us was actually a physiological response to a spiritual imbalance caused by abusing the gift of speech G‑d has given us. And since communication is an indispensible part of any relationship it follows that the phenomenon of tzara’at carries within it the reason for the breakdown of relationships and the cure for it as well. And this notion of the breakdown of relationships is further reflected in the way the afflicted—the Metzora—must be quarantined, isolated from others. This was to help the person realize how his actions caused discord.

The Mystical Approach to Tzara’at

In Chassidic thought we are taught that only very spiritually sensitive people would “break out” with these tzara’at skin lesions. Tzara’at is the inability of the person to internalize the most sublime G‑dly energies. In the lexicon of Kabbalah this powerful surge of spiritual energy is referred to as the “lights of Tohu (Chaos)".

Tohu—in contradistinction with the balanced world of Tikkun, the world we inhabit—is a spiritual “domain” in which the energy that is generated is too powerful for the instruments through which it is transmitted, which results in a spiritual form of short-circuiting. Moreover, Tohu, because each of its diverse components is so intense, has no room for fusion and balance among the various competing forces. Kindness and judgment, for example, cannot coexist in the world of Tohu.

Tohu-oriented souls are therefore people whose spiritual passion can be too much for their systems to contain. A Tikkun personality, by contrast, carves out a comfortable spiritual niche and is never in danger of his or her soul’s short-circuiting.

Alternatively, Tohu personalities may have a hard time coexisting with others because their personalities clash. A person imbued with a Tohu-kindness and loving personality cannot find any room for those who favor discipline or are judgmental. Conversely, one who is stern and judgmental will not be able to tolerate those loving personalities. Each personality type is so intense that he or she cannot get along with another whose personality is likewise very strong and passionate, although in a very different direction.

By contrast, a Tikkun personality is one whose energy is limited and easily contained. And because their traits are tempered, they are better at harmonizing their own traits and likewise finding common ground with others.

The Biblical prototypes of the first Tohu phenomenon of intense passion were Nadav and Avihu, Aaron’s two eldest sons. In their zeal to get closer G‑d—as we read in last week’s parsha—they brought an unauthorized offering and were themselves consumed by a heavenly fire. Or Hachaim and Chassidic texts explain that their demise was a direct result of their inability to internalize the intense passion of their Tohu souls.

The second Tohu prototype is the tragic Talmudic story of the 24,000 students of the great Sage, Rabbi Akiva. Because of their inability to get along with each other they all died in a terrible plague. To this day we observe the days between Passover and Shavuot as days of minimized joy because of that tragedy. Kabbalah and Chassidic literature attribute their demise to their souls originating in the chaotic and discordant world of Tohu.

Galut=Tohu Energy

Another manifestation of the Tzara’at/Tohu syndrome is the very phenomenon of galut/exile. The Rebbe explains (Sefer HaSichos, 5751, parshat Tazria-Metzora), that the entire phenomenon of galut is the setting where the most sublime energies are in play. But because there is no mechanism for these sublime energies to be accessed and experienced by us, the energy often manifests itself in negative ways. In some, it can motivate them to try to escape the confining and stifling world that we inhabit. In others, it creates tension and the breakdown of relationships.

Our challenge is to bring an end to Galut and usher in the Messianic Age so that the transcendent galut/Tohu energies will be capable of being received and internalized by us. In the future Messianic Age we will enjoy the best of both worlds—the fusion of the Passion of Tohu with the stability and tranquility of Tikkun. In truth, both Tohu and Tikkun personalities have their pros and cons. The impression that a Tohu personality is a wholly negative one—and that Nadav, Avihu and the students of Rabbi Akiva, were all negative figures in our history—is wrong. The Tohu personality actually possesses certain qualities that the Tikkun personality lacks and is encouraged to acquire.

Tikkun personalities, because the energy generated in them is limited, do not have much passion, comparatively speaking, for their own ideals. The amount of spiritual energy they invest in their lives is moderate to minimal. They cannot start revolutions or bring about radical changes for the good. Sure, they can get along with others, but in many cases this might be simply because they don’t really stand for much. There is no room for any clashes because their personalities are bland and lack much forcefulness. Of course, there are different degrees of Tikkun personalities. But, generally speaking the Tikkun personality is not ready to rock the boat.

Conversely, Tohu personalities exhibit a lack of knowing what their mission is in this world. Because of their passion for their ideals they lose sight of how their passion actually leads them to self-destruct, and often they take others along with them.

In terms of the general purpose of existence—to make this world a dwelling place for G‑d—the Tohu personality does not contribute to this ultimate goal.

With a Tohu personality who lacks the ability to fulfill his or her mission on earth —we are left with galut. Tikkun personalities do not generate any real spiritual changes, and we are left with the status quo—galut.

It seems that whether we are Tohu-oriented or Tikkun-oriented we seem to be locked into a galut fixture from which we cannot extricate ourselves. And this is indeed the cause of all the breakdowns in our relationships. They are either overwhelmed by a surge of Tohu energy which undermines their ability to find common ground with the other, or they are deficient in any active life and inspiration. The very measured and often muted energy of the Tikkun personality can take the life out of a good relationship.   

The Remedy: Fusing Tohu and Tikkun

The answer to this challenge of relationships is the same answer to the challenge of Galut. The ultimate goal is to synthesize the Tohu personality with the Tikkun mindset. And this is what the Messianic Age is all about. It will be punctuated by the best of both worlds: in the Rebbe’s words: “The lights of Tohu will be introduced into the vessels of Tikkun.”

The passion and zeal of the Tohu personality will not be compromised. Rather it will be infused with a new sense of mission and harmony. The soul’s heightened sensitivity and love will not conflict with its sense of mission to relate to and change the world. And the sense of responsibility to respect the limitations of the world in which we live and operate will not dull the sheen nor dampen the natural ardor and energy of our soul.     

Torah with Humility

How do we introduce the Messianic synthesis of the intensity of Tohu into the balanced tranquility of Tikkun?

In the foregoing discourse the Rebbe explains that this balance is achieved through the study of Torah. Torah represents the attribute of tiferet, which means beauty or harmony. Torah study—particularly the parts of Torah that discuss Moshiach and Redemption—has the capacity to unify opposites and blend them harmoniously, thereby taking the sublime energy of Tohu and internalizing it in the “broad vessels”—the “grounding” properties of Tikkun—fusing the best of both the worlds of Tohu and of Tikkun.

Without the harmony of Torah study—and the concomitant humility to enable us to absorb its synthesizing power—we are left with tremendous energy that cannot be internalized and that leads to a state of tzara’at; i.e. the state of discord and alienation—broken relationships. 

A Suggestion   

Perhaps we can add that the divisions that exist today are directly related to the mutually exclusive tendencies of the Tohu and Tikkun personalities. A Tohu person has no patience for the conventions that the Tikkun person follows. And, likewise, a Tikkun person feels overwhelmed by the energy and unconventionality of the Tohu personality.

The first thing is for both classes to follow the Rebbe’s guidance and integrate the other's attitude into their own lives. But this requires a healthy dose of humility. Both have to be capable of accepting the other person’s approach and integrate and incorporate it into their own.

Even where that proves difficult the alternative could be to join together with the other. In the interests of bringing Moshiach it behooves the more reserved among us (the “Tikkun” personalities) to look to the more dynamic members of our community to guide us, while the more passionate members should look to the Tikkun people to find ways of making their powerful ideas accessible, understandable, and palatable to others.

Moshiach Matters      
Our sages tell us that the laws of tzoraas on a house hint to the Bais Hamikdosh: The owner of the house says, It looks like Tzora’at in my house. The owner is Hashem, the house is the Bais Hamikdosh and He sees the sins (tzoraas) of the Bnei Yisroel. Everything is taken out of the house and then the ouse is broken down. This hints to the plundering of the Bais Hamikdosh and its destruction. But in the end, the house is rebuilt with other stones (14:42), hinting to the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdosh - may it be now.

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