These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion: 1102 – Tazria / Metzorah – Series III. Good Shabbos!
Guarding Against Feeling Too Good About Oneself
The end of parshas Tazria deals with Tza’ra’as (the spiritual blemish often (mis)translated as leprosy, which causes various types of discoloration of skin, clothing or house walls) that appears on clothing. The pasuk [verse] says, “The kohen will see the garment after it was washed, v’henay lo hofach hanega es ayno [and he sees that the blemish has not changed], the garment is unclean, you should burn it in fire.”
The pasuk uses interesting language: “v’henay lo hofach hanega es ayno,” which means that the appearance of the nega [blemish] has not changed. This is actually an idiomatic expression. The word “ayno” literally means “eye,” and the expression literally means “the blemish has not changed its eye.”
I saw a beautiful insight, quoted in the name of the Chidushai HaRim. The Gemara in Meseches Ayrachin says that there are a number of avayros [sins] which can cause tza’aras. The most commonly known avayrah is loshon horah [evil tongue; slander]. However, the Talmud in Meseches Ayrachin also says that the punishment of tza’aras afflicts a person “al tzoras ho’ayin.” Tzoras ho’ayin [literally – narrowness of eye] does not only refer to a person who is tight-fisted or cheap. A tzar ayin is a person who never sees the good side of anything and always sees evil. It is the opposite of a generosity of spirit. It is stinginess, not only regarding money, but regarding viewing life, in general. A tzar ayin is a person who does not like to see other people’s success. The only success that he is interested in is his own success.
If tzoras ho’ayin is a sin that causes tza’ra’as, then the tikun [correction] that causes the tza’ra’as to go away is doing teshuva [repenting] and switching from being a tzar ayin to a tov ayin. That means that one who is like a student of Bilom HaRoshoh, who Chazal tell us had this trait of tzoras ho’ayin, of stinginess of spirit, must change and become like the students of Avrohom Avinu – to become a tov ayin [one with a good eye]. If the tza’ra’as stays the same and does not get better, the garment is unclean and the person does not have a tikun for his avayrah.
The Chidushai HaRim (founder of the Gerre chasidshe dynasty – 1800s) explains that there is a double meaning when the pasuk says, “vhenay lo hofach hanega es ayno” [“and behold, the tza’ra’as did not change its appearance”]. “Lo hofach hanega es ayno” – His ayin [eye] did not change. In order to do teshuva, his ayin must change. He must change from being a tzar ayin to being a tov ayin. The pasuk is hinting to us, “Vhenay lo hofach hanega es ayno.” His ayin did not change. He has the same stinginess, the same unwillingness to share and be generous.
The meaning of “Ayno,” here, is not merely that the appearance did not change, but the ayin did not change. The tzoras ayin, the avayrah that brought on this terrible punishment is still in place.
The Chidushai HaRim continues with a classic chasidishe vort: The word “nega” is really the same word as the word “oneg” [pleasure]. What is the entire difference [in the Hebrew lettering] between the word “oneg” and the word nega?
The only difference is the placement of the [letter] “ayin.” The “nun” and the “gimel” are in the same place. The only difference is whether the “ayin” is at the beginning or at the end. What is the difference between “nega” and “oneg?” What is the difference between a person having tza’ra’as and a person having pleasure? It all depends on the placement of the “ayin.” That is this person’s problem. The problem is with the “ayin.” His problem is with his perspective and his approach to life. His problem is with his ayin, so his tikun must be “hofach hanega es ayno.” He must change his “ayin.” He must take the “ayin” from the word “nega” and make it into “oneg.”
However, if someone is so stingy of spirit that he can not be gracious or see the good side of life, then he remains a metzorah. “Henay lo hofach hanega es ayno” – the nega remains and he must burn the garment because he is incapable of changing his “ayin.” He is incapable of changing his perspective.
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion. Halachic topics for Parshas Tazria / Metzora from the Commuter Chavrusah Series include:
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Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Yissocher Frand and Torah.org.