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Parsha Tazriya

04/04/2019 08:30:23 PM

Apr4


The main topic of the Parsha is the punishment of Tzar’as for speaking Lashon Harah and other similar problems.  Both the Chisudhei Harim and Sefas Emes, leaders of the Gur dynasty, point out that the words Negah, an affliction (used in the context of Tzaras), and Oneg, the Hebrew word for delight, are actually anagrams.  The key difference in the words Oneg and Nega is where the letter “Ayin” appears in the spelling, as the “Ayin” appears first in Oneg and last in Nega.  The letter Ayin is defined by the meaning of its letter, an eye, and it indicates here that the “eye,” or attitude of a person, is the defining difference in reacting to the issues of life as either Oneg or Nega, good or bad, because no circumstance is absolutely good or bad, and ultimately, it is our perception that shapes the way it forms in our minds. 

Later on in the Parsha, the Torah discusses Tzaras on a garment, and writes “And the Kohen shall look at it, and behold the Nega has not changed “es eino,” literally translated as “its appearance.”  Based on the homiletical suggestions of the Sefas Emes, here too the Pasuk can be interpreted to mean that the Nega has not changed the “ayin,” the negative perceptions of the one being punished with Tzaras, and the Kohen should therefore render the garment “tamei.”

Besides this idea of the eye controlling the way the mind interprets information, there seems to be a deep connection between the eye and the sin of Lashon Hara in general.  From all the sins of Lashon Hara in the history of the Jews, the Miraglim’s sin of speaking badly about Israel serves as the archetypical instance of Lashon Hara and its detrimental effects.  The punishment the spies received was that they were to wander 40 years in the desert before their eventual death, with the number 40 corresponding to the number of days in their spy mission.  40 for 40, the number of days they spent spying were paid back to them in commensurate fashion in terms of years.  But it seems strange to hold the spies accountable for the number of days they spied, because their sin was not about spying but rather in their report back after their mission was completed.  Shouldn’t their sin be considered just the one night when they spoke the actual Lashon Hara?  Perhaps the answer can be seen in a Gemara in Sandedrin 104b, where the Gemara notes that the Pesukim in Eicha follow alphabetical order with the exception of a few chapters where the letter “pei” precedes the “ayin” instead of following their placement in the alphabet.  The Gemara writes that this is meant to allude to the sins of the Miraglim, who spoke with their mouths, (peh) what they had not seen with their eyes. (ayin)  While the simple explanation is that they reported back things they had not seen, the Gemara can mean that the eyes of the spies were not in the beginning, like in the word Oneg, but rather at the end, like in the word Nega, meaning that their perceptions were bitter and skewed and that their words were accordingly tainted as well.  Eyes are the conduit for information to move to the mind, but they also filter, paint, and present the information to the mind with personal touch, and the root of the Lashon Hara of the spies was that their eyes were lacking and their negativity permeated to what they now believed to be fact.  From this perspective, it is understandable why their sin was really about the 40 days of their spying mission and not just about the one night of their report, because it was the way they processed the information in Israel that was sinful, as the Gemara succinctly says-“they put their mouths before their eyes.”  In the Tzaras process, the Torah emphasizes the role of the Kohen’s eyes, as the Kohen must inspect the Nega and determine its status and meaning.  It is the Kohen’s “good eye,” the descendant of Aron Hakohen who personified the characteristic of “ayin tova”- seeing the good in people- that must now decipher the Nega in the person whose deficiency is a “bad eye,” an eye at the end of words that taints the information it processes. 

 
 
 

 

Thu, November 21 2019 23 Cheshvan 5780