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 (5767)
This week we learn about the unusual, complicated and now extinct, Torah 'disease' called 'Tzoraat' caused by such sins as haughtiness and viciously damaging speech.
Rashi, the main Torah commentator, explains that this week's section about Tzoraat comes after last week's Torah portion which told us which animals are fit to eat to tell us that just as man was created after the animals …so his laws are written afterward.
But does this make sense? Can we really call Tzoraat the laws of man? Tzoraat has been gone well over a thousand, perhaps two thousand years while the laws about animals are very relevant to this very day.
To understand this here is a story about Rebbe Boruch of Mezibuz.
Jews would come from all over Russia to hear Rabbi Boruch speak or even just see his face.
For instance, it once occurred that a certain Jewish wine merchant was in the middle of a business trip with a wagon laden with hundreds of bottles of wine that he had bought on credit when suddenly he got a great urge to travel to the Rebbe.
Some say it was because he suddenly remembered a certain sin he had done, others because he suddenly realized a certain character flaw in himself and others because he just had to get a dose of holiness.
In any case, because his wagon was much to heavy a burden for the horses and he had to move fast he unloaded all the barrels of wine at the first inn he passed, gave the innkeeper some money for the room he put it in, locked the door, took the key and sped off like the wind in his now empty wagon to Mezibuz.
He got there shortly before Shabbat but when the Rebbe saw him he called him over asked him the reason for this sudden visit and got the full story.
"What! You left all your wine just to come here? You fool! Idiot! Have you no brains? You are hopeless! All the blessings in the world couldn't help a dunce like you!?" And he continued insulting and shaming the poor fellow in loud tones for several minutes.
And it didn't stop there. The entire Shabbat in front of hundreds of Chassidim sitting together in joyous solemnity at the Sabbath meals the Rebbe would let this Chassid have it in the most degrading terms. "Deformed fool! Numbskull! Better you weren't born!! Etc." Needless to say the Chassid was embarrassed to the essence of his soul but the Rebbe didn't seem to care and no one dared to stop him. The Rebbe never makes a mistake… that's what makes him a Rebbe.
Now, it just so happened that the Rebbe's in-law, another great and holy Jew called Rabbi Avraham of Chemilnik, was also there and although he also believed in the Rebbe's infallible wisdom, he just couldn't bear to see what was happening. Every time his father-in-law said an insult he felt as though an arrow was piercing his heart! He had never seen anything like this, especially from his holy father-in-law and it almost brought him to tears.
"Rav Boruch, my precious Father-in-law" he leaned over and said softly and caught the Rebbe's attention, "This pains me deeply. Why are you shaming that poor fellow? What about what it says in the Talmud and the Zohar that one who embarrasses his fellow man in public has no place in heaven?! Please! I beg you; you are forfeiting your place in the world to come!!!"
But the Rebbe just turned to the wine merchant, threw out a few more terrible insults and then to his son-in-law and motioned under the table for him to come into the next room.
Once they were alone where no one could hear them he explained. "My dear son-in-law, of course I know what punishment awaits me for what I am doing. And believe me I have never spoken like this in my life and hope I never will again. But I can see things that you can't. It's a gift that G-d gave me … and, well, what can I say, it's not always so pleasant.
"I see that there are thieves that want to rob all the barrels of wine that this fellow left locked up miles from here. It will leave him a not only a pauper but a debtor for life … maybe even put him in debtor's prison.
"I know I'm losing my heavenly reward … but it's the only way I can save him. You see, the shame that my insults are causing him is in the place of the shame and misery he'll have otherwise. As long as I'm insulting him the thieves won't succeed. And it's worth my 'heaven' to save this poor Jew."
This answers our question.
Tzoraat, says the Talmud, is caused by slanderous or damaging speech. In the days of yore when one spoke damagingly about another, blemishes would appear on the speaker's skin as a sign that he had to correct the spiritual blemishes he caused by his evil words.
But today we have fallen too far from the truth. Today we attribute all our misfortunes to natural causes; germs, viruses, economy, the government etc.
But occasionally there are Tzadikim; like the Rebbe in our story, who know and live the truth. Everything in this world has a spiritual source and every action here causes a spiritual reaction.
These people can actually see and feel what happens in the spiritual worlds when a good deed or, G-d forbid, the opposite is done. And their example teaches us that there is order and justice far above our ability to discern.
That is the 'law of man' Rashi is speaking of. These Tzadikim truly bear the form of man, (as the book Tanya teaches (Chapt. 24) regarding Daniel in the lion's den).
And the main Tzadik of our generation, the Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches us that if it is in the power of evil speech to do so much damage then CERTAINLY positive, optimistic speech can do even more good. Every positive word, deed or even thought purifies the upper worlds and brings blessing and meaning into this physical one.
And there is nothing more positive topic than Moshiach. Namely to think, do and SAY all we can to make the world a better place in every detail and bring…..
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.