This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Tazria-Metzora (5766)
This week we read two Torah portions that cover the strange laws of Tzoraat.
Tzoraat is loosely translated as 'leprosy' because both are skin diseases but really there is very little similarity.
One of the outstanding differences between them is that Tzoraat is not caused by germs and it cannot be cured medically. Rather, its cause is haughtiness (i.e. false egotism) the only cure for it is humility (Rashi14:4).
Does this make sense? True, haughtiness is an ugly trait but it certainly is not a sin.
And conversely humility, as laudable as it may be, is not a commandment.
Why should they bring such exaggerated results that two entire sections of the Torah are devoted to them?
To understand this here is a story.
Some 150 years ago in White Russia in the days of the fourth leader of the Chabad Chassidim (Rebbe Shmuel or as he was nicknamed the Rebbe Maharash) lived a businessman who we will call Choni.
He was a Chassid (follower of the Rebbe) and, on the face of things was an ideal Jew. He learned Torah, gave charity, was friendly to everyone, honest and fair in business and as helpful and pleasant as can be.
Until he was alone in the house with his wife.
Suddenly he became a different person; touchy, argumentative, childish and unreasonable.
It began immediately after the wedding; every little thing upset him and what made it worse was he would never admit that he was wrong (even when he clearly was) and could never forget a wrong done to him (even when it was only in his imagination).
After a few years the situation got so bad that finally, against the advice of everyone, he packed his things, moved to a town far away from his wife and ignored all the pleadings of friends, family and rabbis to reconsider.
He was certain of himself - he wanted a divorce!
But his wife had no intention of ending the marriage. She hoped against all hope that he would snap out of it and just come back. And to this end she kept sending Rabbis and emissaries to him. But nothing helped. And so it continued for several years
Then, suddenly after five years he joyously announced that he changed his mind and was willing to return! It was nothing short of a miracle!
No one knows exactly what it caused it. Perhaps something that someone had said, even years earlier or maybe it was because he had just been offered a huge business deal in Petersburg and was in a good mood…. In any case he was coming back!
The next day he packed his bags put them in his carriage and started on the long journey home.
But after a day or two into the week long journey Choni realized that he was passing the town of Lubavitch. How could he pass by without giving the Rebbe the good news?
It would be a detour of only a few hours and, hey! He could ask for a blessing on the big proposition in Petersburg he was about to make!
He decided to do it! He turned into Lubavitch went to the Synagogue and secured an audience with the Rebbe for that very night
That evening he entered the Rebbe's office. The Rebbe was happy to hear the good news about him returning home and gave his best wishes. But when Choni asked about Petersburg the Rebbe looked up at him and asked. "Nu? And where are you going first?… to the business deal or to your wife?"
"Why, back home to my wife!" Choni replied, certain that this was what the Rebbe was getting at. "Nothing is more important than a Jewish home! Not even the biggest…. "
But the Rebbe cut him off.
"I think you should first go to Petersburg as soon as possible, first thing in the morning tomorrow. And THEN go home to your wife."
Choni couldn't believe his ears! Was the Rebbe telling him that business is more important than marriage? And wasn't there a danger that he might change his mind again about going home?!
"He managed to blurt out in his confusion, 'If it's an order, Rebbe, I'll follow. But can the Rebbe at least tell me why?"
The Rebbe just smiled and answered "If you knew that then you would be a Rebbe yourself!"
Early the next morning Choni was on the way to Petersburg, even further from his wife than when he started. But a few days later when he arrived there he understood why.
When he got to the house of the man he was to make the deal with he saw the fellow standing on his front porch flanked by two large suitcases locking his front door with his servant just bringing up his carriage.
Choni introduced himself and asked the man where he was headed. He just gave a vague answer about an extended vacation.
"But, what about the business deal we corresponded about?" Choni asked.
"Ah yes! Well, I suppose I can push off my trip for a few moments to sign the papers." He replied as he re-opened his door and asked Choni to step inside.
In moments the deal was closed, they shook hands, stepped outside, the man re-locked the door, entered his wagon that was already loaded with his baggage and disappeared.
If Choni would have arrived even moments later he would have missed out on what turned out a deal that made him into a fabulously wealthy man!
He immediately returned to his wife as he originally planned and they lived a long and happy life together blessed with many children and many acts of kindness.
But the question still remains; why couldn't the Rebbe just tell Choni why he had to go to Petersburg first? After all, it wasn't such a mystery. He could have just told him that if he didn't hurry he would miss the deal!
There are several possible answers to this.
One is that the Rebbe himself didn't know why, Hashem didn't reveal it to him.
But this doesn't make sense because the Rebbe said; "If you knew then you would be a Rebbe."
Another is that maybe Choni would think he could then decide for himself what to do. Perhaps he would forgo the deal or decide not to go home at all.
Or perhaps the Rebbe just wanted loyal Chassidim.
Or perhaps he wanted to cure Choni of relying too much on his own understanding, which was why he left his wife in the first place.
But the Lubavitcher Rebbe answered this differently in one of his early speeches (Sivan 5710):
The only way to really serve HaShem and fix this world up is by following the orders of Moses, and the Moses of every generation.
And Moses must be followed with total surrender above logic and reason.
When this is lacking the entire purpose of creation; serving the Creator and transforming this world into heaven on earth, is missing.
That is what the Rebbe wanted from Choni; to make him into a Chassid devoted TOTALLY to serving G-d with joy (eventually even in the things that are understood) and to become a true asset to the entire creation.
This is the secret of Tzoraat. It is telling us that although haughtiness in itself is not a sin nevertheless it is the source of all sins.
This was what caused the Jews to oppose Moses and King David (the most humble men in history), to ignore all the prophets and eventually to bring about the destruction of the Temple and the terrible exile we have been suffering in for almost two thousand years.
And humility is the essence of all Judaism.
It means to listen and follow Hashem and Moshe (His servant) totally, even when there is no reason (of course only according to the Torah).
This will ultimately be brought about by Moshiach the most humble person (and greatest leader) of all (see HaYom Yom pg 157) who is also is called 'Metzora'; being afflicted with Tzoraat (Talmud Sanhedren 98b).
Because Moshiach will transform all the haughtiness (and the resultant pain and suffering of exile) in the world.....to G-dliness.
It's all up to us. By learning about Moshiach and doing everything possible to bring him, even one moment sooner we can save all mankind and make the world into the place G-d intended it to be. See chapter five of the Moshiach essay http://www.ohrtmimim.org/Torah_Default.asp?id=781 for instructions.
Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.