Something Like An Affliction Has Appeared On My House
These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape# 853 – Mila on Shabbos: Fascinating Questions. Good Shabbos!
Parshas Metzorah contains the laws of Tzaraas on Houses. The Torah teaches: “When you arrive in the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I will place a tzaraas affliction upon a house in the land of your possession; the one to whom the house belongs shall come and declare to the Kohen, saying: Something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house. (k’negah nireh li b’bayis)” [Vayikra 14:34-35].
Rashi points out that even a Torah scholar who knows full well that what he has seen is certainly tzaraas affliction, may only tentatively state “something appearing like an affliction has developed on the wall of my house.” Various interpretations are given as to why a person must express himself in this fashion. Some say it is an application of the principle “Do not open your mouth to Satan” (in other words, do not initiate the verbalization of comments relating to misfortune occurring).
Tosfos YomTov offers an interesting interpretation. The Talmud states that one of the reasons Negaim appear is as punishment for haughtiness and arrogance (gasus haRuach). We are trying to teach the person a lesson: Don’t be so sure of yourself. You cannot definitely state “It is a Nega.” You should state the facts with less confidence and self-assurance. Leave your declaration at “Something like a Nega has appeared on my house.”
‘You got yourself into this trouble by being too sure of yourself. Forget the fact that you spent the last 25 years studying the Laws of Tzaraas. Don’t be so cocky. The Tikun [antidote] to self-assurance is to retain some doubt about the correctness of your diagnosis. Say only “K’nega nireh li babayis.”
One of the components that is dipped into the blood of the slaughtered bird as part of the purification ritual for the afflicted house is Eizov – a kind of moss. Rashi, quoting Chazal, explains that moss is a very low lying growth. We are sending the person a message that his problem resulted from an overabundance of arrogance and haughtiness. We are telling him “You have to start acting more like the Eizov.”
The Sefas Emes asks a simple question. Why doesn’t the Kohen just come out and say that directly to the person: “You are too haughty!” Why is this message delivered so obliquely with this Eizov ingredient in the bird purification ritual? Why are we beating around the bush, let’s tell him “You are a Baal Gayvah, you had this coming to you! Start acting more humbly and your problems will go away!” We do not do this. We deliver the message with extreme subtlety. Why?
The Sefas Emes answers that you cannot preach humility. Humility must be self-generated and self-inspired. Preaching the value of humbleness to a haughty person will fall on deaf ears. He needs to come to this realization on his own. We try to send him messages that will cause him to introspect and inspire him to think “What have I been doing wrong?” He should think – why is it that out of all the plants in the world, they bring me moss? Hopefully, this will trigger the inspiration that must come from within — that it would be wise to be a bit more humble in the future.
This write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah CDs on the weekly Torah Portion. The halachic topics covered for the current week’s portion in this series are:
# 007 – Self-Defense # 051 – Moser: The Dilemma of the Jewish IRS Agent # 094 – Hallel on Yom Ha’Atzmaut? # 142 – Eyeglasses in Halacha # 189 – Mikveh: Tevillah and Chaziza # 279 – Women’s Testimony in Hilchos Niddah # 325 – The Microscope in Halacha # 369 – Bris Millah That Causes Chilul Shabbos # 413 – Speaking Lashon Horah on Baalei Machlokes # 457 – Getting an Aliyah After Childbirth # 501 – Milah and the Sick Baby # 545 – Dangerous Medical Procedures # 589 – Pidyon Haben – Daytime or Night? # 633 – Lashon Harah and Lashon HaTov # 677 – Tallis Koton — Wool or Cotton? # 721 – Eruv Pesach – Mores Special Than You Think # 765 – How Many Mitzvos of Sefira Are There? # 809 – Netilas Yadayim – Things You Never Knew # 853 – Mila on Shabbos: Fascinating Questions # 897 – Insights Into Sefiras Ha’Omer # 942 – Kiddush Hashem – Is Everyone Obligated? # 984 – “What’s Tonight’s Sefira?” and other Sefira Issues #1028 – Davening Maariv Early: Does it Make it Tomorrow? #1073 – Bracha Achrona – How Fast Or Slow Must One Eat? #1115 – Office Lashon Horah – How Far Must You Go To Avoid It?
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