And the person with Tzaraas, in whom there is the lesion, his garments shall be torn, his head shall be unshorn, he shall cover himself down to his mustache and call out, “Unclean! Unclean!”
All the days the lesion is upon him, he shall remain unclean. He is unclean; he shall dwell isolated; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. (Vayikra 13:45-46)
These are very harsh conditions for the Metzora to endure. Yes, he spoke Loshon Hora and he was the cause that people became separated from each other and this is his just repayment “Mida Knegged Mida” – measure for measure. However, isolation is severe. The toughest punishment a prisoner can receive is solitary confinement. That breaks a person more than physical privation. To be cut off from society is a huge dose of Din – Judgement!
Even if the goal is to get him to recognize “the evil of his ways” and to mend his behavior, it may just drive him further away in the end. I know too many examples of people who reacted negatively to punishment, not realizing it was tough love, and as a result they ran even further away. Therefore, it may be important for the Metzora, the isolated one, sitting alone in quarantine, to understand that he finds himself in a setting that is not a purely punitive.
This I heard from one of my holy Rebbeim, Rabbi Ezriel Tauber ztl. Every situation in life has an admixture of DIN- Judgment, Rachamim – Mercy, and Chessed – Kindliness! How so!? Chaim just finished an inspired Davening and now he’s driving to work on the West Side Highway. He’s on his way to an important early morning meeting. Traffic is flowing swimmingly and the weather is fair and it looks like all systems are humming perfectly. Chaim is listening to a Daf HaYomi Shiur and life could not be better.
Suddenly, flub flub flub, his right front tire blows out and he puts on his yellow blinkers as he crawls in the right lane looking for a place to pull over. By the time he reaches the rare cut out area which qualifies for a shoulder on the road he has terribly torn up the tire and maybe ruined the rim too. He calls roadside service, AAA or Oy Oy Oy, and they tell him that help is on the way and will be there in 45 minutes. Now he will miss that important meeting. His boss will be upset.
Now let’s examine this situation using these three lenses of Din, Rachamim, and Chessed. The obvious Din is that he out the price of tire and he has some repairing to do at work. What had he done to deserve this!? I don’t thing anyone can say for sure. Maybe something terrible! Maybe nothing at all!
The Rachamim in this scene is that perhaps this was just a slap on the wrist in comparison to what he truly deserved. No one can be certain, but Boruch HASHEM it was his tire and not his car or him that was damaged or lost. He found a rare shoulder spot on the road. He is sitting in a safe place. He has road side service. He’s been spared, because he has a spare. He has only to wait 45 minutes and all will be well again very soon.
The Chessed in the scenario is he’s alive. He can breathe. At that very time his wife is doing carpool and taking their two healthy children to school. He has time to listen more carefully to his Daf HaYomi Shiur. This list is actually endless.
Employing these three ways of seeing each situation can free the person from obsessing on a “woe is me” and “why me” attitude and allow them to see that what looks like a punishment is really a hug. The Talmud says, “Push away with the left and draw close with the right!” The standard understanding is that the left is weaker than the right and the pushing away is only to draw even closer. I heard an alternative explanation that if you do both the pushing away and the drawing close at the same time you turn the person, and that slightly new perspective can help them understand that in the tough is tons of love.