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Healing by Focusing Inward - מצורע

Friday, 8 April, 2022 - 11:39 am

Healing by Focusing Inward

The Tzaraat affliction, whose purification process is the subject of this week's Torah portion, is not common today; nevertheless, the laws of tzaraat provide profound lessons that can enhance our spiritual growth. 

Our sages teach that the tzaraat affliction was a consequence of the sin of Lashon Hara, slander, as Maimonides explains: 

This change that affects clothes and houses which the Torah described with the general term of tzara'at is not a natural occurrence. Instead, it is a sign and a wonder prevalent among the Jewish people to warn them against lashon hora, "undesirable speech."

Slander, however, is merely a symptom. The root cause of slander is envy. When a person is jealous of his fellow, he finds comfort by pulling down the other by slandering his fellow, rather than raising himself higher. But, in fact, at the core of jealousy lies something deeper. The jealous person feels inadequate because he does not focus on his own abilities and blessings but instead focuses outward, looking toward other people. This creates a sense of emptiness within himself, causing him to be jealous of the other, which leads him to slander the object of his jealousy. 

To rehabilitate the root cause of slander, the inner void the person feels within himself, the Torah tells us that the person afflicted with tzaraat must sit alone outside the camp, secluded even from other ritually impure people: 

All the days the tzaraat 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 explains why he must dwell alone: 

He shall dwell isolated: [meaning] that other unclean people [not stricken with tzara'ath] shall not abide with him. Our Sages said: "Why is he different from other unclean people, that he must remain isolated? Since, with his slander, he caused a separation [i.e., a rift] between man and wife or between man and his fellow, he too, shall be separated [from society]."

There is, however, another reason why he must dwell alone. Dwelling alone forces a person to rely on himself for survival; he cannot count on other people for food, clothing, shelter, and company; he is forced to rely on his own creativity to provide for himself. When he sits alone, he is forced to focus on himself; and that is the first step of healing. He will eventually come to value himself without comparing himself to others. When he does so, he can come back to the camp and benefit from the blessings of interacting and integrating with the community without falling into a state of envy and jealousy that emerges from focusing on others and not appreciating oneself. 

The cure for envy that causes slander, then, is to focus inward, to appreciate oneself, valuing the unique gifts, opportunities, and blessings that G-d has granted each of us.    

 

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