We should never take the wording in the Torah for granted. Each word and hint in the Torah is deliberately placed, teaching a special message to us.
We should never take the wording in the Torah for granted. Each word and hint in the Torah is deliberately placed, teaching a special message to us. Here's an example. A metzorah, the subject of this week's Torah portion, is a person who develops the skin disease of tzaraat because of a spiritual deficiency, primarily because of lashon harah (evil speech or slander). The metzorah spends time in solitary confinement outside the camp, and while there, does soul-searching, periodically being inspected by a Kohen (priest) to determine whether he has returned to a state of "purity" or not. At the beginning of this week's portion, the Torah addresses the proceedings on the day that the subject is deemed pure. The Torah says, "The following is the law regarding the metzorah on the day of his purity. . ." (Leviticus 14:2).
Now, let's return to the fact that the Torah builds messages into everything. Here, on the day of his purity, when the person is technically no longer a metzorah, the Torah continues to describe the person as a metzorah. What's the message in this?
Rabbi Shmuel of Sochachov, one of the leading Chassidic Rebbes at the beginning of the century, explains that the truth is that the cause and the cure of the disease are relevant even after recuperation. The cure for lashon harah is based on the ability to humble oneself and not criticize or talk about other people. Therefore, the cure for lashon harah is not a "one-shot deal". One doesn't swallow the medicine over a ten-day period and watch the problem disappear. A person is cured of lashon harah only if he stops speaking lashon harah, and a person will only stop speaking lashon harah by remaining humble for the rest of his life. Even the person who is approved by the Kohen and is pronounced pure, remains a potential metzorah, even on the day of his purity!
The many stages and events in the life of a Jew are not momentary, but are set in place forever. A Bar or Bat Mitzvah is not a one-day affair. It is an announcement of a whole new stage which will continue for a lifetime. It's the same with marriage, as with many other stages in our lives. That's how building a life through Torah Judaism works - lifelong changes which last a lifetime.
Jeff Ram, formerly of Atlanta, has been living in Jerusalem for three years with his wife Diane. He is a former president of Yeshiva Atlanta and served on the boards of Congregation Beth Jacob and the Atlanta Jewish Federation.
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