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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Tazria-Metzora

Parshat Tazria-Metzora

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Shemini 5781
5th of Iyar, 5781 | April 17, 2021

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Mr. Charlie Harary
Getting Real

I’ve said in the past that the average person who wakes up in the morning, learns Daf Yomi and davens like a mensch, is like a Navy Seal. He is a soldier. And it is totally true. The person who thinks he is a nobody, and all the while he is getting up, being an honest person, and being good to his wife and children – that man is a Navy Seal in these times. To be honest, to be happy, to be modest and real with Hashem, those attributes are nothing small to consider. We put pressure on ourselves because we don’t have this, or didn’t hit that mark, and we are living in this tiny fishbowl, as if in a celebrity culture, where we feel that unless people recognize who we are, we are lacking. What we are missing today is temimus, authenticity to Hashem. That realness and genuineness is the greatest and sweetest to Hashem.

My rebbe, Rav Moshe Weinberger, has been telling us that during these days, Hashem is looking to get us more in tune with the depth of who we are. We are not going to shul in the same way as before, and we are able to just start living life, and take it to heart that I am a Jew, and I can close my eyes once in a while and bring this home to myself. Once we realize who we are, we can build on it. We want to be a real person, and have it that when we speak, it is true to who we are. I want to talk with my wife and kids and it is true; I really do want to talk to them. I’m not just talking to my kids to get something out of the conversation or out of them.

The most powerful thing we can do is spend time alone with Hashem. It is not just for chassidim. Say, “Hi Hashem, it’s me… I messed this up. I can’t believe I blew it. I need to start to get real. I want to be more.” When a person spends this time every day, they’ll soon be telling themselves, “I got to do more of this.” It is simple, but it’s deep. And it will matter and make a difference in your life. Spend a few minutes with Hashem each day. Talk in English or whatever your language is, and just be real.

One Rav once told me, “Getting to know yourself is getting to know Hashem.” If you have a piece of Hashem within you, then it is the same path of reaching Hashem and reaching inwards. The way I see it, tefillah is reaching up and hisbodedus is reaching in. Even when you reach up, you reach in. But we need to climb. Our Sages infused with the words of prayers potent spiritual connections, which we are not always aware as to how it works. But hisbodedus is the process of discovering myself, and in that process of finding myself, I find Hashem.

You cannot get to Hashem unless you go through yourself. You are not doing G-d a favor by talking to Him. He did us a favor by putting Himself inside us. So now when you look at yourself, you know what you will find? G-d. It is an avodah. You are going into your inner Kodesh Hakodashim, Holy of Holies. Most people are afraid to spend time alone because they think they are alone. But they are not.

With time, your relationship with G-d will deepen, and you will find that He is there with you.

I know a wonderful girl who usually goes to friends for Pesach, although this year she was alone. She reached out to my family and wrote, “At first I thought I was alone in my apartment, but then I realized that I am on a date with Hashem. I am with Hashem alone.” As she said it, I thought, “She gets it. She is sitting over candlelight with her Dad, the Creator of the Universe.” And there are other people with big families who have never met Him. This is the avodah of this time period. It is deepening ourselves and believing in ourselves. It is not allowing the world to tell us who we are.

Now someone might say, “Look, I’ve have been talking to G-d for a really long time. I am now 40 years old and I am not married. So don’t tell me to talk to Him; I am not talking to Him anymore!” There are a lot of good people who do hisbodedus (self-contemplation). But when life hurts, and you’re in pain, it is very hard to go on with hisbodedus. It feels that G-d isn’t answering me!

I am not saying I own this concept, and it’s a good question as how to deal with that pain.

A lot of us have been raised in a culture that tells us that the reason you have Hashem is to get what you want in this world. He fulfills your needs, and therefore, if you need something, you turn to Him. If you play this out, though, the only function of Hashem is to give us more in this world. Therefore, if I ask something from Him for twenty years and I don’t get anything, that must mean that for those twenty years, our relationship has been for naught, because the only reason I talk to Him is because I want something from Him. But the minute that is the only reason we connect to G-d, we are missing the entire point.
We do not have Hashem to fulfill our needs; we have needs to find Hashem. Therefore, the prize for this woman after twenty years is that she has the thing that most human beings do not have. She actually has a relationship with the Creator of the World. And it is a real relationship.

I was once at a Gateways Seminar, and I spoke about Hashem being our father, and a woman came up to me, and said, “My father was a very wealthy lawyer, and I was a superstar kid.” She ended up being the one kid from her whole family who inherited the family business. And her whole life, her relationship with her father was a business relationship.

“I was the most career-oriented woman I know,” she said. “But if I could choose between giving up everything I have accomplished – my career, money and practice – to have one more day with my father, I would do it in a blink. I would give up everything materially to have that. There is nothing more valuable than just spending time with my father.”

The challenge is that we are using Hashem for our stuff. And if it is frum stuff, marriage stuff, or health, then for sure, we say that He owes it to us. But we are forgetting that the most valuable thing we have in this world is to walk around holding Hashem’s hand always. There is nothing greater than going through life and feeling that my father is next to me. And if we use every need we have as an reason to get back in the room with Him, and after twenty years, all we got was Him, there’s nothing else in the world that can come close to that.

Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Gertzulin
It Just Takes One Click

This week’s double Torah portion, Tazria-Metzora, tells us about tzoraas, a blemish that would appear upon one who is speaking lashon hara. A physical reaction to a spiritual misaction, a warning from HaShem – be careful, you are treading in dangerous waters. Perhaps, it could be understood as a Divine gift, a personalized sign from Above, causing man to stop and reconsider his words.

While the physical affliction of tzoraas no longer exists, its message remains strong and relevant. HaShem gifted us with the power of speech, and we must choose our words wisely.

Ethics of the Fathers teaches us: “The world was created with ten sayings (Ethics 5:1), as in “Let there be light”. Did HaShem really need to verbalize words to create? The world could have easily been created instantaneously through a thought process, a Divine spark. Why the need for “ten sayings”?

HaShem wanted to teach us the importance of language, of communication, the power of words. Man, HaShem’s final creation, was formed from the dust of the earth. “HaShem breathed a nishmas chaim, a breath of life into man, and man became a living being”, which Targum Onkelos defines as a speaking being. (Bereishis 2:8)

Language is life. Our mission is to emulate HaShem, to use our power of words to bring blessing into the world. Words can be both creative and destructive. They can be used to spread goodness or bring pain and sorrow.

The well-known American author and podcaster, Brad Kearns, said that the word “WAIT” is an acronym for Why Am I Talking. Before speaking – WAIT! Think it out. Ask yourself, “Why am I talking”? What is the purpose of my words?

Am I embarrassing someone with my words? Am I revealing another’s confidences, sharing private info? How many times have we heard the line… “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but…”, or “Did you hear what happened to…”? Unfortunately, these lines have become all too familiar, too commonplace. Lashon Hara has become an accepted norm. Emails, texts, and social media have made “gossip” more accessible. With one click, news proliferates easily and travels exponentially.

We find excuses for speaking about others. We tell ourselves that it’s all true, or that everyone knows it anyways – its public knowledge. At times, we speak out of insecurity, jealousy, or just to get attention from a listening audience.

In Parshas Metzora, the phrase “Toras haMetzora, the laws of the Metzora” (one who has tzoraas) appears five times. Five times, corresponding to the Five Books of the Torah. The message is clear: Speaking lashon hara is equivalent to transgressing all Five Books.

Lashon hara hurts not just the one being spoken about, but also has a negative spiritual effect on both the speaker and the listener. As Shlomo HaMelech, King Solomon said in Proverbs, “Life and death is in the hand of the tongue”. (Mishlei 8:21). Our words can build others up, or they can tear them down. The decision is ours to make.

Tzoraas is called a nega, an affliction. The Hebrew word nega, is spelled נ-nun, ג-gimmel, ע-ayin. If we change the order of the letters to ayin, nun, gimmel, we have the wordענג , oneg, an occasion of pleasure and delight. With our words, we have the ability to change nega to oneg, affliction to pleasure.

It’s not always easy. In fact, it takes much effort, inner strength and willpower to break away from the habit of speaking lashon hara. But yes, we can do it, and in doing so, bring blessing not only to our lives, but to the lives of those around us.

The first incident of lashon hara was in Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden. The snake, like the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, tried to convince Chava, Eve to take from the Tree of Knowledge, saying that through it, HaShem concealed His secrets of life from man. Since then, the snake has become a symbol of lashon hara, with its venomous sting, taking on a life of its own.

The Rebbetzin a”h had a unique and wonderful way of teaching Torah. My mother always found a connection between a current news story and the parsha of the week.

I remember one year, the week of Parshas Metzora, the Rebbetzin related a news story about a chef who was a victim of a fatal cobra bite while preparing snake soup. He severed the serpent’s head, only to be bitten by it twenty minutes later. The venomous bite was fatal even long after the head was severed.

Like the fatal snake bite, the harmful words of lashon hara continue to cause pain even long after they are spoken. As with the snake, their destructive impact lingers much beyond when they are first uttered.

We are now in the midst of the days of Sefirah, a time of semi-mourning, and remembrance for the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva who perished due to a plague.

Rabbi Akiva didn’t despair and give up hope. But, with great emunah, faith in HaShem, he rebuilt his Yeshiva. He emphasized the teaching of “V’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha – love your neighbor, your friend, as yourself”. (Vayikra 19:18).

The Chofetz Chaim, a great teacher of shemiras haloshon, guarding one’s speech, similarly taught to love your fellow as yourself. Before one speaks, he wrote, ask yourself, “Would I want someone to say this about me?”

In the merit of thinking before we speak, may we be a people whose words bring blessing and friendship, uniting one with another.

Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
Six More Weeks

Back in the 1950s, Ealing Studios produced a series of brilliant comedies, each with a moral. They could arguably have been viewed as a sort of 90-minutes mussar talk, wherein the viewer would learn an impactful life lesson. One of my favorites was “Last Holiday,” starring Alec Guinness. Guinness plays an unmarried and unassuming salesman who goes to the doctor and is told that he has a rare disease and has precisely six weeks to live.

What did he do?

He took out his life savings and high-tailed into the ritziest hotel on the coast where the glitterati of commerce, politics and entertainment met. As he felt he had nothing to lose, he was completely honest with everyone, and everyone was drawn to him like a magnet. Nothing was as attractive as his honesty. This unassuming salesman became a star, praised by the lords of politics and moguls of industry.

But as it turned out, his x-rays were mistakenly swapped, and he was never ill in the first place.

Over the past weeks and months, many of us have been asking ourselves, “What if I only had six more weeks to live?” Nothing brings a journey more into focus than the sight of its end. The fact that we are going to leave this world is inevitable. But how we are going to leave this world is up to us. Will we leave trying to grab the last morsel of this material world, or will we leave it with generosity, courage, bravery and self-sacrifice?

That is the most important question in life.

May Hashem give us the courage to rise to the occasion and experience long lives, lived as if we only had six more weeks of them to live.

Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser
Already There

When I look to people to help them, my real secret is to view them as if they are already healed. I see a healthy person, and all that is left to do is help them discover that within themselves.
In Florence, Italy, one of the great sculptures is that of David, a giant marble sculpture created by MichelAngelo. MichelAngelo was once asked, “How did you do it? How did you take a rock and create David out of that rock?” Simply, he replied, “David was in there; I just removed what was in the way.”

Rabbi Eitiel Goldwicht
One Dollar

I remember as a kid, after I must have done something noteworthy, that my father handed me ten dollars. Without skipping a beat, he took the opportunity to teach me about the mitzvah of giving maaser, a tenth of my earnings to charity. And so I gave one dollar to tzedakah. My father then proceeded to ask me, “How much money do you have now?” “Nine dollars,” I proudly replied. My father then shared with me words that I have never since forgotten. “You know how much money you have left? One dollar. Those nine dollars you are still holding, you might lose them or spend them on candy, but the one dollar you gave to charity, no one can ever take that away from you. The reward in Heaven for that mitzvah is something that will last for eternity.”

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