In this week’s parsha we read
“…it is the tzaraas affliction and shall be shown unto the priest.” (13:49)
We are all familiar with the concept of an optimist and a pessimist, and how each view a half-full/empty cup. In a questionable situation of tzaraas, such as the one quoted above, I would have assumed that the Torah would take on the position of an optimist, meaning that it would be determined to be tahor and not to be tzaraas. Yet, the Torah assumes the position of guilty until proven innocent by stating “nega tzaraas hu” a definitive appreciation that it is tzaraas unless the priest will tell us otherwise.
The Oznayim l’Torah notices this choice of words and teaches us a fundamental lesson in how we are to perceive the world: If Hashem puts us in an unusual situation, we must think “Is this a warning sign?” and if it is, we must heed the warning and improve ourselves. If we do not, then we can expect something worse can happen. When a person has a questionable case of tzaraas and must go to the priest, he is obligated to make a cheshbon hanefesh to determine what he can do to improve his life. If he keeps his life unchanged, then the questionable tzaraas will eventually become validated tzaraas.
Upon sharing this idea with a friend, he told me of a story that had left an indelible impression on him. Several years ago, he went to the hospital to visit an acquaintance who had been in a car accident. Incredibly, the injured man stated to someone else present “there are many people in my situation who would look to change something in their lives after such a close call. I am not planning on changing anything!”
In contrast to this, this week a close friend of my family called me and asked to speak in person. He told me that he was just in a car accident on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, and after explaining the particulars, questioned, if he was obligated to bentch gomel (he was obligated). We met the next day, and he asked me “I understand that nothing in this world happens by chance, so what lesson should I learn from this close-call. What should I do to improve myself?”
Upon reflecting on this concept, that some people’s response may be different than the Oznayim l’Torah’s thought, it occurred to me in a tongue-in-cheek manner a possible play on words. There is a great similarity between the word tzaraas (a spiritual skin affliction) and tzoros (problems, troubles). If you don’t think about your tzaraas, you could end up with tzoros.
On a more cheerful note, we have just finished the invigorating holiday of Pesach and if we don’t stop to reflect upon it, it could become just a memory. If we think about the ideals and values of cheirus (freedom) at this time when we still feel it, hopefully we can have it become charus (engraved) in our hearts and minds.