Blog - Torah Insights

Who Comes to Whom? - מצורע

Who Comes to Whom? 

Our Parsha begins with the laws of the purification of the Metzora, who was sent outside the camp due to the severity of his ritual impurity. The Parsha begins to describe the process of purification:  

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, This shall be the law of the person afflicted with Tzara'ath, on the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought to the Kohen .

The verse states, "He shall be brought to the kohen", which implies that the person seeking purification will come to the Kohen, yet the following verse states the opposite: 

The Kohen shall go outside the camp, and the Kohen shall look, and behold, the lesion of tzara'ath has healed in the afflicted person.

Which one is it? Does the person seeking purification go to the Kohen or does the Kohen "go outside the camp" to meet the person? 

The technical interpretation is that both are correct. The person would come to the entrance of the city, and the Kohen would exit the city to greet the person. The mystics, however, explain that there is a deep message that can be gleaned from these verses. The Kabbalah explains that in the relationship between the creator and creation, there is "an awakening from above" and an "awakening from below". At times, a person experiences inspiration, creativity, and enthusiasm as a gift from above without any effort on his part. Other times, the person "awakens from below"; he invests continuous effort to elevate and inspire himself. 

The Zohar explains that a person is not merely a passive recipient of the spiritual energy that descends from above; but rather, he is an active participant in the process. "An awakening from below creates an awakening from above". When a person awakens himself to the best of his ability, that awakens the Divine energy to bestow additional "awakening from above", far more than the person could have achieved on their own. 

Back to our Parsha. "He shall be brought to the Kohen" represents the person inspiring himself to improve and grow. Doing so, generating the "awakening form below" will elicit the "awakening from above", "the kohen" representing the gift from above, "shall go outside the camp" to reach the person. 

To create healing, purity, and inspiration in our lives, we should take the first step by creating the desire and plan for growth; G-d will then bless our efforts and infuse us with even greater energy and blessing. 

Adapted from the Shem Mishmuel 


Healing From Within - תזריע


Healing From Within 

Of all the forms of ritual impurity discussed in the Torah, the ritual impurity of the Tzaarat {skin discoloration}, is, in some ways, the most severe. The Torah states: 

All the days the lesion is upon him, he shall remain unclean. He is unclean; he shall dwell isolated; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:46)

Rashi clarifies that not only must the Metzora {person afflicted with Tzaraat} be separated from people who are ritually pure, but he must also dwell in complete isolation, separate even from other people who are ritually impure: 

He shall dwell isolated: [meaning] that other ritually impure people shall not abide with him.

Our sages taught that the Tzaarat affliction was a result of Lashin hara {negative speech, gossip}, based on that Rashi continuous to explain why the Metzora must dwell alone:

Our Sages said: "Why is he different from other ritually impure people, that he must remain isolated? Since, with his slander, he caused a separation {a rift} between man and wife or between man and his fellow, he too, shall be separated {from society}".

From a deeper perspective, we can suggest that dwelling in isolation is not merely a consequence of the negative speech, but rather it is an important step to healing the Metzora. The sages identify two causes for the Tzaarat: (1) gossip and (2) arrogance. While they seem to be two unrelated deficiencies, the reality is that they both stem from the same cause: a person's lack of self-esteem and his inability to be in touch with his internal core, which is the source of his own infinite value. When a person does not feel his inherent value, he will constantly need validation and affirmation from others. The person will then be inclined to be haughty and arrogant in order to receive recognition from others and will engage in negative speech in order to tear down those whom he perceives will outshine and outperform him. 

The cure to both gossip and arrogance is for a person to turn inward. Not to outsource their sense of value and make it dependent on recognition from others but rather to find an internal anchor within his own spiritual core. The healing, therefore, is to be alone, to realize that one must rely on one's own self for physical survival, and, just as importantly, for mental and emotional survival, allowing a person to tap into his infinite value stemming from the spark of G-d within each of us, only then can a person reintegrate with family and friends and create healthy lasting relationships. 

Sons of Aaron Vs. Rabbi Akiva - שמיני


Sons of Aaron Vs. Rabbi Akiva 

It was one of the happiest days in Jewish history. After many months of construction and seven days of inauguration, the cloud rested on the tabernacle on the eighth day, symbolizing the Divine presence resting amidst the Jewish people.

It was also a day when tragedy struck. As the Torah relates: 

And Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them. And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. (Leviticus 10:1-2)

Drawing too close to G-d, what the kabbalah calls "running", can be dangerous. 

The Talmud relates that four great Talmudic sages "entered the orchard", a metaphor for delving into the most mystical secrets of the Torah, only one of them emerged safely:  

Four entered the orchard: Ben Azzai peeked and was hurt… Ben Zoma peeked and died… Aḥer peeked and cut saplings {became a heretic}… Rabbi Akiva entered in peace and left in peace. (Jerusalem Talmud, Chagigah 2b)

What was Rabbi Akiva's secret to not only "run", to experience the intense desire and yearning to cleave to G-d, but also to "return", to turn back to earth to sanctify the mundane experiences of life? 

Regarding the other rabbis, the Talmud tells us only how they emerged from the "orchard"; yet regarding Rabbi Akiva, the Talmud adds a detail that sheds light on how Rabbi Akiva succeeded where the others failed. Rabbi Akiva not only "emerged in peace" but also "entered in peace". Rabbi Akiva's attitude and motivation to "running" was not his own personal desire to connect, which would make it difficult to "return" to a healthy life, but rather it was motivated by a devotion to the will of G-d, which is to create "peace" and bridge the gap between heaven and earth. 

It would be a mistake to assume that the lesson of the story of the sons of Aaron is that we should not seek to "run" - that we should not cultivate the yearning and desire to transcend and escape the mundane. Instead, the message is that" running" must not be motivated by one's personal desire, for then the person can become self-centered and disconnected from family, friends, and the task of impacting the world. Instead, the story of the sons of Aaron teaches us that the yearning for transcendence must be for the sake of fulfilling the will of G-d. The yearning must be predicated upon, and therefore consistent with, the Divine desire that we "run" and "return", that we enter the orchard in peace in order to emerge in peace. 

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