The two Portions we read this Shabbos almost exclusively concern the laws of Tzoraas. Tzoraas are certain discolorations that appear on one’s skin, garment or house. Only after being appraised by a Kohain could it be determined if it was a Tzoraas malady. If it was indeed Tzoraas, the person was quarantined until the Tzoraas disappeared. He was then required to bring certain offerings in the Temple and go through various rituals.
Our Sages tell us that Tzoraas came upon a person primarily because he spoke ill about others – what is commonly known as Loshon Harah. When one shares the deficiencies of others he diminishes their standing in the eyes of those that listen to him, and as a result they will distance themselves from the one he spoke about. Tzoraas appears on the person who spoke and as a result he must distance himself from others and experience what he caused others. When the person repented the Tzoraas would go away.
Tzoraas is basically G-d pointing out one’s flaw. For example, the Torah tells us that when G-d dispatched Moshe to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt he was reluctant to do so. At one point he was critical of the Jews, saying they would be unwilling to listen to him. G-d told Moshe to place his hand in his garment and when he removed his hand it had Tzoraas. Years later, when Miriam spoke ill about her brother Moshe she also contracted Tzoraas and was quarantined for seven days.
The possibility of receiving Tzoraas deterred people from speaking ill of others. Tzoraas only visited a person who was on a heightened spiritual level, and when people did not live up to the heightened level of spirituality and when we became unable to do the Temple service to perform the required rituals, the Biblical Tzoraas did not appear. It will once again be a reality when our Temple will be rebuilt with the arrival of Moshiach.
Torah is timeless and there is a Mitzvah to study even the laws that are not currently applicable. There are always novel lessons to be derived from the verses and nuances of the Torah.
I came across a timely and practical lesson that I wish to share.
When the Torah describes how the Kohain inspected a potential Tzoraas blemish, it states, “The Kohain shall look at the blemish on the skin of his flesh: If a hair in the blemish has changed to white, and the blemish’s appearance is deeper than the skin of the flesh – it is a Tzoraas affliction. The Kohain shall look at it and declare him contaminated.”
Rabbi Sha’altiel Cohen observes that the verse has a redundancy. It begins with ‘the Kohain shall look’ and then it repeats itself at the end of the verse, ‘the Kohain shall look.’ Why are these words repeated? Rabbi Cohen explains; the Torah is teaching us something fundamental. For a Kohain, or for anyone, to declare a person Tamai – contaminated – he cannot do it hurriedly. He needs to do it thoughtfully and with consideration. The Torah is telling us that yes, the Kohain looked at the blemish and it had all the markings that it was indeed Tzoraas; still, he should look at it again to assure that it is indeed Tzoraas. Only then he can declare him impure.
However, when the Kohain inspects a blemish and determines that it is pure, the Torah does not tell us that he should look at it again. His first pure impression is what sticks.
Let’s face it, we have a multitude of platforms on social media and the like that give us the ability to comment, opine, like, dislike, compliment, disparage or embarrass almost any topic, person or group.
The Torah is speaking to us – if we have a rush to condemn, denounce or criticize, we are to pause and think about it a second time. Surprisingly, sometimes the second time is actually the first time that one put in real thought and considered that perhaps hurt and damage will result from his message.
But, be sure to let the compliments, good wishes and encouraging words flow!