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The Gift of Pleasure - תזריע

Friday, 5 April, 2019 - 11:06 am

The Gift of Pleasure

The Hebrew language, “the holy tongue”, is a language of profound depth. Just by looking at its words one can discover the deepest truths of life. One example is the word Nega, affliction, used in this week’s portion to describe Tzaraat, the skin ailment that creates ritual impurity. The book of formation, perhaps the earliest Kabbalistic work, teaches that the Hebrew word for affliction, נגע, consists of the same letters as the word for pleasure, ענג.

“Affliction” and “pleasure” are, in fact, opposite extremes. The affliction of the Tzaraat is considered, in some ways, to be the most severe of impurities. It is the only impurity in which the person must leave the camp and sit in solitude. Pleasure, explains the Kabbalah, is the deepest capacity of the soul. Yet, the Hebrew language teaches us, that there is a relationship between that which we think of as most negative and that which is most positive.

The inner meaning of the laws of the Tzaraat affliction demonstrate this principle. The Torah tells us that when someone is afflicted with specific forms of skin discoloration they are brought to the priest, who will determine whether or not the affliction is ritually impure or ritually pure. There is, however, a deeper, figurative, interpretation, which contains a broader message for the life of the Jew.   

The Torah tells us:

If a man has a Se'eith, a sappachath, or a bahereth on the skin of his flesh, and it forms an affliction of Tzara'ath on the skin of his flesh, he shall be brought to Aaron the Kohen, or to one of his sons, the Kohanim. (Leviticus 13:2).

The Hebrew names for the shades of the Tzaraat discolorings, “Se’eith”, “Sappachat” and “Baheret”, are translated literally as “uplifted”, “additional”, and “clear”. According to the inner spiritual interpretation, the Torah is referring to someone who is gifted with a positive quality; wisdom, beauty, wealth, charisma, creativity, insight. This “additional” quality has the ability to “uplift”, to “add”, and to “purify”. Yet, in this case, the person chose to express that quality in a destructive way. Thus the positive quality designed to uplift and purify, now “forms an affliction of Tzara'ath on the skin of his flesh”. The divine gift becomes a spiritual affliction because the person chose to express the gift to advance his own selfish desires, arrogance and narcissism.  

The spiritual solution, one would think, is that the person seeking purity, must abandon the path which led to the spiritual affliction. He must walk away from the attribute that led to his spiritual downfall.   

The Torah, however, teaches otherwise: “he shall be brought to Aaron the Kohen, or to one of his sons, the Kohanim.” The very quality that led to the spiritual challenge, must be “brought to the Priest”, must be used for the sake of holiness and positivity. The Kohen who would perform the service in the temple teaches us that the gifts we have; beauty, wealth, musical talent, artistic creativity, etc., were given to us in order that we use them for holiness.  

Everything in our life can be a spiritual affliction or a source of great pleasure. Everything in our life can be “brought to the priest”. Everything we possess can be used in the service of G-d to advance the purpose of our creation: to transform a world afflicted with challenge and suffering into a place of pleasure and holiness.

(Adapted from Be’er Mayim Chayim)   


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