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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Tazria-Metzora

Parshat Tazria-Metzora

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Tazria-Metzora
1st of Iyar, 5780 | April 25, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Shimon Kerner
Strengthening Your Spirit and Soul

I once had the opportunity of joining Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro on a tour to Spain, wherein he shared some heartwarming and powerful words, which I will share with you.

We are all familiar with the beginning of Parshas Va’eschanan, wherein Moshe Rabbeinu pleads with Hashem in the form of 515 prayers (the gematria, numerical value, of the word Va’eschanan) to enter the Land of Israel. Yet it is most interesting to take note of what Moshe says to Hashem.

If you were Moshe Rabbeinu and were seeking merits for which you deserve to enter Eretz Yisrael, what would you say? Perhaps, as Moshe Rabbeinu, you would say, “Hashem, please remember that I was the intermediary to bring down the Torah and teach it to the Jewish people; I am the greatest of prophets who spoke to You face to face.” But the Baal HaTurim tells us otherwise.

In just the Parsha before, that of Devarim, Moshe had told the Jewish people that they were “not to fear” as the planned to go into battle. They had Hashem on their side, and He would ensure their safety and security. It was then, just after Moshe Rabbeinu encouraged and strengthened the spirits of the Jewish people, that he began pleading with Hashem to allow him entry into the Land of Israel. So what then was Moshe’s plead to Hashem? The Baal HaTurim writes one line:

“I strengthened the Jewish nation’s spirits; perhaps you can have compassion on me.” Moshe did not invoke his merit that he played a pivotal role in giving the Torah or make mention of his greatness of prophecy. He rather said that G-d should have mercy and compassion on him because he fortified and encouraged the Jewish people’s hearts before they were to begin battle. He gave them, what is colloquially termed today, chizuk.

A poignant observation, this is. Now consider something further.
If you were to be asked what the most devastating plague was of all the ten plagues which occurred in Egypt, there would be many reasons to list each of them. The hail and locusts affected the crops, which caused great hunger; the pestilence caused disease and perhaps death, and so on.

But the great maggid, Rav Shabsai Yudelevitz zt”l, writes that despite the fact that more life and property was lost during the first eight plagues, the ninth plague of darkness was the most devastating. This was because there is no worse feeling than the feeling of being alone and going unnoticed. When darkness surrounds you and no one can see you nor can you see anyone else, there is nothing worse.

The Pasuk read on Tisha B’av from Eicha (3:6) states, “He has placed me in the darkness like the eternally dead.” Being in darkness is like death itself. Further, the Pasuk (ibid. 1:2) tells us, “She weeps bitterly at night, and her tear is on her cheek.” Why, figuratively, were there tears on the cheek of Jerusalem, which was destroyed? Because there was no one to wipe them away. There was no one to offer words of comfort and encouragement.

Rav Simcha Schorr once commented that our heart is on the left side of our body. As we know, however, in Yiddishkeit, the right hand or side is given more prominence than the left. Why then would the heart, our most important organ in our body, be located on our left side? The reason is because our thoughts and feelings are meant to be aimed at supporting and uplifting others, and our right hand, which is filled with strength, when extended, touches the other person’s heart, on the left side of their body. Our right is another person’s left. When a person is weak and down, we can extend them a breath of life if we would take the time to do so.

Rav Ephraim Shapiro further quoted his father, Rav Mordechai Shapiro z”l, who observed that the words neshama (soul) and neshama (desolation) are spelled the same, yet their vowelization makes a world of a difference. Neshama, as in soul, is spelled with a kamatz underneath (which looks, for the sake of imagery, like a T) and neshama is spelled with a patach (–) which is similar to a straight line. The underlying reason for such a distinction is that the kamatz vowel, so to speak, has support underneath its horizontal line, yet the patach doesn’t. When there is no support, and there is just a flat line, a person feels desolate and lonely. Yet, with just a small amount of support to another, you can give them back their life, their neshama. It makes an extraordinary difference.

Now what does this look like practically?

A widower once came to the Vizhnitzer Rebbe in Bnei Brak a day before his daughter was going to get married. He wished to receive a beracha from the Rebbe for his daughter and future son-in-law. The Rebbe kindly and gladly did so, giving the man a blessing and wishing his family well.

Very late the next night at 3 a.m., the Vizhnitzer Rebbe turned to his attendant and motioned that he should follow along, as he was going to the home of this particular widower.

As the Rebbe and his gabbai arrived at the widower’s home, the widower himself was just returning from his daughter’s wedding. The widower, surprised to see the Rebbe so late at night, took a seat and so did the Rebbe. The Vizhnitzer Rebbe then proceeded to ask the man a whole slew of knitty-gritty questions relating to the wedding. “How was the chuppa? How did the band work out? How was the caterer? Flowers?” All the little details of the wedding were discussed and exchanged between the man and the Rebbe. After quite some time, the Rebbe and the gabbai left.

The gabbai, baffled as to why the Rebbe did such a thing, asked why all of this was necessary. The Rebbe replied, “What does a man do when he comes home from his daughter’s wedding? He goes over all the little details of the wedding with his wife. This man, unfortunately, didn’t have a wife to do that with, so I decided to do so.”

That is what it means to encourage and strengthen the spirit and soul of another Jew.

Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz
Dense Darkness, Bright Light

During the war, it was mandated in many circumstances, for homes to be made dark. If a family wished to have lights on inside, they needed to cover their windows with a dark cloth, so that no light would shine to the outside. Given such to be the case, the brighter the light was and the closer it was to the window, the darker and denser the covering needed to be.

When the Shotzer Rebbe passed by these homes, and noticed that the windows were covered with thick, pitch black cloths, he remarked that you can tell that in this house, they have a very, very bright light and it must be close to the window. They therefore needed such a dense cloth to cover the window and keep in the light.

During these days, there is much darkness in the world. Especially when we are isolated and separated, there is even more darkness. But if this is the case, it must be that the light in our homes is so, so bright. The Torah states that the darkness which prevailed in Egypt during the plague of darkness was extremely and extraordinarily dense and thick, to the point that people could not get up nor see one another. Yet, for the Jewish people, the Torah tells us that there was light in their homes. Can we imagine how bright the light for the Jewish people must have been?

In our day and age too, there is bright and brilliant light in our homes, relative to the dense darkness which exists outside. When it is dark outside, it is because Hashem is looking at us and watching after us. Let us never lose hope.

Rabbi Yaakov Rahimi
Go Straight to the Boss

Dovid Hamelech writes in Tehillim (121:1), “A song of ascents, I raise my eyes upon the mountains; from where will come my help?” When a person is surrounded by uncertain and worrisome circumstances and sees no end to them, what should he do?

Years ago, what did people used to do if they lived in a small town and they wanted to ensure their protection and safety from surrounding enemies? They would ascend to the top of the mountains and look afar to see if anyone was in the distance.
In this vein, Dovid Hamelech tells us that we would be inclined to do the same. When a situation is troubling and despairing, we too wish to ascend to a place from which we can see the end to our plight. When will this pass? When will life return to normal? When will I get through this painful time in my life?

Yet the answer, says Dovid Hamelech, is not to go to the top of the mountains and look around. It is rather, “My help is from Hashem, Creator of heaven and earth” (ibid v.2). What should a person do under trying conditions? Go straight to Hashem.

Rabbi Benzion Mutsafi shlita once commented that the term “mountains” can also refer to those who, so to speak, stand at the top. Many turn to the leaders, politicians or doctors and ask, “When will this end? What will happen to us?” But Dovid Hamelech reminds us that our help and healing comes from none other than Hashem. If we are looking for answers and solutions, go straight to Him, go straight to the boss. Hashem created the heavens and earth; He certainly knows what is going down below with you and can help you through your troubles.

The Baal HaTanya writes that if a person wishes to remind himself what great a privilege and merit it is to be able to pray to Hashem, he should go outside and look at nature. Look at the plants, trees, sun, flowers, and so on. All of this should remind us what precious opportunity we have to talk to Hashem, Who created all of the unfathomable creations in the world.

When it comes to prestigious leaders, it is nearly impossible to get in touch with them, let alone carry any direct conversation. But Hashem allows us such an opportunity. It is something too great to pass up on. We have direct access, in the form of our prayers, to meet and greet Hashem.

Mr. Michael Rothschild
A Magical Formula

Do you remember the early days of the Coronavirus? It was when the health department was trying to understand how each person had become infected to begin with. What were the exact circumstances and conditions which led them to contract it? They studied where the patient had traveled and which stores they entered, hoping that somehow, through understanding where the virus had originated from and spread to, they could contain it.

The finest minds in epidemiology tried to keep Corona in check, and it was a noble effort, but we know what happened next.
Lashon hara mirrors Corona in many ways. Lashon hara also does great damage and it would take only the greatest “lashon hara epidemiologists” of today to study the path of destruction it carved until it destroyed the shidduch of Dovid and Malky.

It started at such a harmless conversation at your Shabbos table. I think it was about twelve years ago; do you remember it? Dovid had missed a couple weeks of school, and one of his classmates hypothesized with “knowing eyes” that something was wrong with Dovid. “I’m not saying anything, just… where there is smoke, there’s fire.” That comment laid dormant on your kitchen counter for six days, until it was passed on to your sister-in-law visiting from Chicago for Pesach. She took the lashon hara to her home, where the epidemiologists tracked the lashon hara to a babysitter who overheard her speaking to Dovid’s cousin.

The babysitter went to a wedding where social distancing was very much in style; the social distancing of speaking lashon hara. She mentioned this at a table of twelve people, and at that point the lashon hara spread wildly, as there were four people from out-of-town. It was at that point that the lashon hara epidemiologists lost the trail.

Until it showed up when Dovid had gone out with Malky. They really liked each other. Of course, Malky mentioned the exciting shidduch to her sister-in-law, who twitched her nose and said that Dovid had missed ‘most of ninth grade with a mysterious illness.’ “You know, I’m not saying anything, but where there is smoke, there’s fire.”

Dovid and Malky were supposed to get married. The Heavenly ledger said that they were supposed to have seven children and enjoy a happy life together. Except… they never did get married.
Now Dovid’s classmate doesn’t even remember the conversation he had twelve years ago, let alone the path it took to destroy Dovid and Malky’s shidduch, so how would he ever be able to do teshuva?

Since we really never know the path our lashon hara takes, it sounds like we are destined to walk into the heavenly courts with just about every bit of lashon hara we have ever spoken.

Let me share with you an idea which will stop the lashon hara pandemic in its tracks.

Imagine if every Jew in the world, right now, would forgive anyone who ever spoke lashon hara about them. Just say these words (don’t think them; actually say them), “Hashem, I forgive with a complete heart anyone who ever spoke lashon hara about me in my entire life.” Reuven forgives Shimon, Shimon forgives Levi, Rachel forgives Sarah, and Sarah forgives Miriam. This wave of forgiveness will travel from person to person, from community to community, spreading forgiveness everywhere.

Have we any idea what we could do for Klal Yisrael right now were we to do this, when we desperately need zechusim (merits)? Just imagine how much compassion we would bring on ourselves because of the compassion we would show our fellow Jew by forgiving them.

Take the opportunity and do so. Don’t wait or worry that not everyone will do it. If you forgive everyone, measure for measure, Hashem will forgive you. This is our secret weapon and our magical formula. Don’t miss the opportunity. Say it now, “Hashem, I forgive…”

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