Torah Fax

Friday, April 4, 2008 - 28 Adar II, 5768

Torah Reading: Tazriah (Leviticus 12:1 - 13:59)
Candle Lighting: 7:06 PM
Shabbat ends: 8:07 PM

The Real You

When the Torah introduces the laws concerning a person who was afflicted with a skin disease known as Tzara'at (commonly confused with leprosy), the Torah states the following:


"If a person has on the skin of his body…"


When we contrast this introductory verse with the one at the beginning of the Biblical book of Leviticus it appears that there is a word missing in our verse.

When the Torah introduces the section dealing with offerings to the Temple it states:


"When a person from you brings an offering to G‑d…"


Commentators note that the Hebrew word "mikem" that means "from you" is not employed here with regard to the laws of the tzara'at and how it is to be treated.


One answer is crucial for our understanding of how we should relate to others specifically when they come to us for help and guidance in the area of physical and spiritual "diseases."  When we see a person in a compromised situation there are two ways we can view that individual. Similarly, when we see a person who appears healthy and robust, either physically or spiritually, there are two opposite ways we tend to view that individual.


How we view the other essentially hinges on what we consider to be the true, authentic, natural and primary state of the individual versus that which is superimposed, secondary and unnatural.


For example, when we see a person who is ill, our perception of that person might be that he or she is an inherently sick individual. On the other hand, we can view a person who for all intents and purposes appears to be a healthy person, but who has some aches and pains and we might assume that those pains are not inherent to their basic condition.


Yet the truth and reality of the situation may be the other way around. The person who appeared sick may actually be a fundamentally healthy individual who is suffering from a temporary and peripheral ailment, while the healthy looking person might actually be afflicted with a serious and terminal internal disease that cannot be detected by the naked eye or even by the best instruments.


The difference in our perception and attitude has practical implications. Let us say that a person comes to a physician with an ailment. The physician will obviously have to determine his or her course of action in treating that individual. Often, the doctor sees the gravity of the patient's condition and consciously or subconsciously determines that this patient is fundamentally ill and cannot really be helped. The doctor then decides to not treat the person aggressively. Particularly, if the patient is old, the physician and others may view this person as a fundamentally sick individual. He or she does not truly appreciate the intrinsic quality of human life at any stage of life.


The same is true on a spiritual plane. A person who suffers from some moral lapses might appear to us so flawed that we give up on trying rehabilitating him or her. And even when the person makes an effort to reverse his or her life and get closer to the right path, we often view it as an insincere gesture, or, at best, one that is doomed to failure. How can an inherently flawed person truly change?  


And here is how the Torah wants us to view the efforts of people and their spiritual ailments.


When a person makes an offering to G‑d, particularly if that individual has a less than stellar moral and spiritual past, the cynics amongst us will denigrate the person who makes the offering. It is hard for the skeptic to believe that the offering is sincere. And this judgmental spectator will conclude that the sin was genuine and the offering no more than an afterthought and superficial gesture.


To counter this cynical view the Torah introduces the section dealing with offerings with the words "When a person from you brings an offering to G‑d…" The words "from you" suggests that this offering is truly from you; it is your true being and identity, even if it was preceded by behavior that was wanting.


By contrast, in this week's Torah reading, where it introduces the skin disease (which our Sages maintain was a manifestation of a spiritual malady; specifically afflicting those who speak ill of others), it leaves out the words "from you." This is to underscore that when it comes to spiritual ailments it is not "from you." These ailments do not define the person. They are secondary to the person; superimposed on their true healthy nature.


The Torah imparts to us the proper attitude we must have to others. We should view their faults as unnatural and extrinsic to their essence and their virtues as natural and intrinsic.


And what is true about each individual is certainly valid when we reflect on the spiritual health status of the Jewish people. For thousands of years we have been preparing and waiting for the Messianic Age. It is axiomatic in Judaism that when we, the Jewish people will return to G‑d and go on the right path, Moshiach will come. Some argue that that phenomenon is far from being a reality. When we take the pulse of Jewish life these days it seems that we as a people are so far from our ideals. It seems to some critics that we are a nation afflicted with tzara'at and not one that is bringing offerings to G‑d.


The response to that challenge is that when we view the entire nation as a whole, we are a good and righteous nation.


Moreover, all generations of the Jewish nation are viewed as a collective body. That ‘body” is essentially healthy and in good shape.


While we, as individuals, might have some "aches" and "pains," we are a fundamentally healthy people and are more than ready for and worthy of the transition into the Age of Redemption. 


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!

Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit


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