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Metzora

Our lives are influenced by the society and environment in which we travel. People who begin to associate with the crasser elements of the public, will lose their previous sensitivity to life and culture. Conversely, those who move around in high society, over time, will have less and less tolerance for coarse behavior.

This concept shapes the attitudes of caregivers, parents and teachers towards their young charges. Children and adolescents are developing their future habits, outlook, behavior and manners. At this critical stage, exposure to the good or the bad, leaves long lasting impressions. Therefore, parents are  selective with whom their children play, and give careful consideration when choosing schools and extra-curricular activities.

The malady of Tzoras can occur on three different locales: a person’s body, clothes or house. Why is a spectrum of diseased items necessary for this Divine message?

Reb Shmuel Ben Nachmeini said in the name of Reb Yochanan: Because of seven things the plague of Tzoras is incurred: 1) Loshon Hora 2) Murder 3) Swearing falsely 4) Adultery 5) Arrogance 6) Theft 7) Stinginess. (Erchin 16a)

Tzoras signals that one of the seven heinous habits or crimes has been committed. There are many permutations of these misdemeanors; for example, one can be miserly in sharing his time to help someone, or, miserly in giving charity.

The striking of different objects indicates which domain in their life warrants correction. When Tzoras afflicts the body, it demonstrates that there is something wrong with the person himself. If their clothes are affected, the message is geared towards the treatment of their possessions – perhaps they are too stingy with their effects, or have sworn falsely for financial reasons.

What is the meaning of Tzoras on the walls of one’s house?

A person’s home is the immediate domain of his influence. Each home has a certain atmosphere which sings to the tune of its residents. The type of music, jokes, media and visitors all contribute to the ambiance and spirit within. Due to vibes emanating from hostesses and their families, we often feel at ease when walking into completely strange homes.

Tzoras on one’s dwelling, is a sign that the house i.e. the environment, needs correcting. The person may be fine, and the treatment of his and other’s possessions may be exemplary, but the atmosphere in which he lives can do with fixing. Tzoras gives that message on the walls of his domicile.

Sick in Mind and Body

Tazria

The body is a sophisticated machine with many different working parts; consequently, it is susceptible to ‎wear and tear. Age and injury will adversely affect the capabilities of this instrument. Often, people who have to ‎contend with the reality of an ailing body, descend into depression. This is a normal response upon ‎discovering they cannot function as they wish. The body is affecting the mind and its mood.‎

A psychosomatic disorder is bodily symptoms caused by mental or emotional disturbance. A ‎person who suffers from anxiety will exhibit bodily symptoms which are the product of their unwholesome ‎psyche. Lower back pain and high blood pressure are examples of physical manifestations induced by stress ‎or an unhealthy mind. ‎

The human mind and body are two forces which constantly affect one another. The source of these ‎influences can originate in either realm, i.e. the mind can persuade the body or vice versa. Awareness of ‎the interactions between the two is crucial in being able to identify behavior and treat illnesses. A ‎competent healer will need to discern if the origin is physiological or psychological. ‎

The body and soul are interrelated in a similar fashion to the mind and body. Pure actions can refine the ‎soul. Conversely, the soul, can influence the body to be positive and to actively do good.‎

Avrohom – the Patriarch – was not opposed to Yitzchok marrying a girl from Aram, despite her upbringing ‎amongst heretics. But, Avrohom vehemently rejected both the local Canaanite girls and the daughter of ‎his righteous slave – Eliezer. What was the difference?

The Ran explains, that the fault of Rivkah’s family was the fact they were ‎non-believers. This failing is not by nature hereditary and would therefore have little bearing on Rivkah and ‎her future offspring. The Canaanites, however, were morally and ethically depraved. They suffered from ‎anger, vengeance, lust and lasciviousness. These traits are passed on to future generations, and thus, even ‎if the particular lady in question was in herself righteous; tragically, she was a carrier of a corrupted DNA. ‎

This is all the more understandable in light of the above i.e. the soul affects the body. The body will ‎transform and contort itself to mirror the soul. Accordingly, just as physical attributes are transferred from ‎parent to child, moral qualities which the body has internalized, are likewise transmitted to its offspring. ‎‎(Belief, however, is not hereditary, it is a purely personal issue i.e. each person is responsible for his or her ‎own beliefs.)‎

Tzoras often mis-translated as leprosy is a malady which appears on the skin of the affected. The skin of a person ‎so afflicted breaks out with a white discoloration. The Talmud explains, that this is a Heaven sent ‎disease which affects sinners. It further proceeds to list seven sins which can cause such an outbreak – ‎chief amongst them is that of Evil Speech. ‎

Tzoras is a corporeal malaise sent from Heaven to remind man to repent. But, it is so much more than just a ‎Divine wakeup call. Tzoras is a physical manifestation of a tainted neshomo. The sullied soul exhibits itself ‎on its host by bearing white blotches. It is a reflection of one’s corrupt ways, the body is radiating man’s inner ‎core. When the person mends his ways and purifies his soul – wherein lies the source of his sickness – his ‎body follows suit and the blotches disappear. ‎

Jerusalem Wasn’t Built in a Day

Tzav

Mr C. M. King was a stern man. His demeanor bore the imprint of high society; he was a cultured individual ‎and well educated. His passion for sharing guided to him to become a school headmaster. It was a good fit ‎indeed. ‎

As was fashionable in those days, he expected faultless penmanship. With his own perfect handwriting he ‎crafted practice sheets for learning cursive. Once we had mastered the basic letters, he compiled ‎sentences, idioms and epigrams, for us to imitate. I have forgotten almost all of these wise witticisms, but ‎one remains vivid in my memory:‎

Jerusalem wasn’t built in a day.‎

It was many years before I learnt that this was only an adaption from the famous adage ‘Rome wasn’t built ‎in a day’. This maxim carries an important message. It teaches us that patience is necessary in order to ‎build something large, impressive and complex. ‎

Embarking on new projects can be both formidable and exciting. In an effort to conform to the demands ‎of the endeavor, it is essential to pace one’s self appropriately to one’s capabilities. Those who undertake ‎too much too quickly, often suffer from burn-out. ‎

I treasure the following remark which I gleaned from a self-help guide. Targeting those embarking on de-‎cluttering one’s home, the author recommended the following mantra – “Your house didn’t get messy in a ‎day, and it won’t get cleaned in a day”. People are consumed by the desire to have a tidy home and in ‎desperation for the finished product they overextend themselves. This is counterproductive. A healthy dose ‎of patience, coupled with pacing oneself correctly will generate the much wanted results. ‎

On the first day of a Cohen’s active duty in the Mishkan, he brings a Flour Offering. This donation had a ‎distinct service. In contrast to standard offerings which are sacrificed all at once, half of his Mincha was ‎offered on the Altar in the morning, and the remaining half was presented that afternoon. ‎

This is the offering of Aaron and his sons … on the day when anointed: One tenth of an Ephah of fine flour … ‎half of it in the morning and half of it in the evening. (Vayikra‎‏ ‏‎ 6:13)

What a great way to induct this fresh Cohen in to his new position. Work in proportion to your capabilities ‎‎- don’t bite more than you can chew. It is not necessary to complete everything at once if you aren’t ‎capable. With the right attitude you can be a contributing member to the Temple service.

Remember, ‎Jerusalem wasn’t built in a day. ‎

Butchering Peace

Vayikra

‎Reb Chanina said: If one sees a well in a dream, he will behold peace.‎
Reb Chanan said: There are three dreams that signify peace, namely, a river, a bird, and a pot. (Berochos ‎‎56b)‎

Water is symbolic of peace. Two droplets fuse together, intermingling with one another to combine into a ‎single drop. Their previous identity is forgotten as they join together to form one united body. To enact ‎this transformation there is an exchange between the two. The drops engage in a session of give-and-take ‎until they blend. If each droplet were to stand its ground, no mixing would take place, but the nature of ‎water is to permit others to encroach on its turf. ‎

The test of a strong relationship is how well it functions when differences arise. People who can cooperate ‎and contain themselves in favor of the relationship, will find a workable solution. Those who place their ‎own wants front and foremost will likely fail. ‎

If true peace is to take root it is necessary for the parties to exercise restraint. Compromise of one’s ‎desires is the starting point of a successful union. From this core, partnerships will flourish and their ‎synergy will produce results greater than the sum of their parts. But, this is only possible if they begin by ‎limiting the self and sharing the stage. ‎

There are four main categories of Sacrifices: Sin, Guilt, Burnt and Peace. The Burnt Offering is consumed by ‎the Altar in its entirety. The Sin and Guilt Offerings are shared between the Altar and the Priests. The Peace ‎Offering is eaten by the owners, priests and the Altar, each group receives a share. In fact, it is due to its ‎wide distribution that it is named Peace Offering.‎

They are called Shlomim because they bring about harmony (Sholom), some portions of the sacrifice go to ‎the Altar, to the Kohanim, and to the owner. (Toras Kohanim 3:156)

When the Torah introduces the Peace Offering there is a subtle departure from the standard expression: ‎

‎“If his offering is a peace zevach” (Vayikra 3:1)

No other Korban is called zevach – a slaughtered animal, only the Peace Offering is referred to as a ‎butchered item. Slaughter is synonymous with the sacrificial Peace Offering (Shemos 18:12, 24:5). ‎Similarly, when Yaakov and Lavan made peace they celebrated by eating ‘slaughter’; once again this word ‎features in the context of reconciliation and creating friendship. ‎

Peace can begin if each party is prepared to slaughter i.e. people are ready to restrict and constrain ‎themselves. When their counterparts are given freedom to express their inner selves it will be possible to ‎harmonize with one another. ‎

Assembled on Shabbos

Vayakeil


A love that is dependent on a cause, will cease when the cause is gone. A love that does not depend on a ‎cause will never cease (Avos 5:19)‎

Love develops amongst people striving for a common goal. Bosses respect their secretaries, doctors ‎admire their nurses,‎‏ ‏and football players love their teammates. However, the feelings of fraternity ‎dissipate when their careers are over. This devotion is a ‘dependent love’; a shallow attachment that does ‎not survive on its own merit. In essence, it only exists to facilitate the cause. ‎

Associations based on specific goals may suffer. Not every member shares equal ambitions and ‎aspirations. Each partner pulls their weight proportionately to their aims. ‎

A team will function better if they relate to each other outside of their working environment. If partners ‎socialize together, a bond develops independent of their common labors.Their efforts will no longer be ‎driven by purpose alone; each person performs out of love and care for their colleagues.‎

In an effort to create greater and deeper interconnection, successful mangers engage their underlings in ‎exotic recreation. They take their employees on golfing trips, visit theme parks and travel on international ‎cruises. These excursions build relationships independent of their joint vocations. The project supervisor ‎moves away from balancing the needs, whims and idiosyncrasies of the individuals, to observing his ‎charges looking out for their fellowman. Group members now sense they are part of unit that has its own ‎independent existence. ‎

This is the rationale behind the old adage ‘the family that eats together stays together’. The family ‎relationship is not based on gratitude or shared responsibilities of cooking, laundry and car pool. By ‎socializing together filial love develops with a life of its own. ‎

Moshe assembled the entire Jewish people to teach them about Shabbos. This was atypical. Moshe did not ‎assemble the people to educate them in the laws of Yom Kippur, Kashrus or Tefillin. Why is Shabbos ‎different? ‎

Shabbos is a day of rest. The Jewish work week is six days long; on the seventh we cease to labor. By ‎definition work requires interaction with others, for example, the diamond-polisher secluded in his room ‎has to meet with buyers and dealers. The six days of work demand human intercourse, but the seventh – ‎the day of rest – could be observed in solitude. ‎

The Torah teaches, for the nation to be a functioning integrated unit, with members who truly care for one ‎another, it is insufficient to merely work together. We need to refresh together. Relationships, strictly ‎founded on job compatibility, will not flourish. A people who socialize, celebrate and relax with one ‎another will develop a caring attitude towards their co-workers. Their friendship and love will thrive as ‎they move away from a dependent relationship to an independent relationship. ‎

Therefore, Moshe assembled the people to teach them about Shabbos, to demonstrate that Shabbos is a ‎time of assembly. Shabbos will have a stronger impact when people congregate and celebrate together. ‎

Tablets For Life

Ki Sisa

“Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a ‎rainy Sunday afternoon.” (Anger in the Sky, 1943)

The author assumes that the desire for immortality is rooted in rational thought. ‎This logic is not unfounded. Just as sovereignty to end life, is within the jurisdiction ‎of the suicidal, it stands to reason that the converse i.e. the desire to live ‎perpetually, is likewise within the control of man. This gives rise to the above absurd ‎aphorism – why wish to live if you are bored on a rainy afternoon?‎

The yearning to be immortal, however, is not the product of a conscious decision. ‎Studies by Boston University, conducted in Ecuador, demonstrated that even young ‎children trust they existed prior to their conception, albeit in a different form. At ‎that juncture, they were unable to eat, see, or have a heartbeat; but they still had ‎feelings, desires and emotions.‎

The essence of the human soul is a spark apportioned from the Divine – there is G-‎dliness in every person and thus each individual is truly immortal. A body can be ‎destroyed by natural or physical phenomena, but not the soul. This human spirit is ‎the source of man’s wish for immortality. This desire for deathlessness, erroneously, ‎spreads from the soul to its temporary housing – the body –developing the ‎inspiration to live forever. ‎

Moses descended Mount Sinai carrying two sapphire Tablets. On witnessing the ‎Jews worshiping the Golden Calf, the letters engraved in the stones departed and ‎flew back to Heaven. These letters, written by G-d himself, could not tolerate ‎idolatry, and returned to G-d on high. Moshe, too, was repulsed. He grasped the ‎Tablets and smashed them to smithereens at the mountain base. ‎

‎“Why did Moshe smash them? Because the script flew away” (Tanchuma Eikev 11)

After much beseeching from Moshe, Hashem agreed not to destroy the nation. He ‎further commanded Moshe: “Hew a second set of tablets and carry them up the ‎mountain”. Hashem promised to inscribe them with what had been written on the ‎first set. Thus, the First Tablets where fashioned and engraved by Hashem, whilst ‎the second set were carved by Moshe and written by Hashem. ‎

There were other differences too. The power vested in the first set, had the ability ‎to permanently subjugate the Angel of Death. He would no longer have any ‎dominion over the Jews. Had the Jews not sinned with the Golden Calf, they would ‎have been spiritually and physically immortal. ‎

‎“At Mount Sinai the Holy One called the Angel of Death and said: even though I ‎made you executioner of the living, you have no business with this nation for they ‎are my children.” (Vayikra Rabbah ‎‏18‏‎:4)‎

The Tablets had two components: the raw sapphire stone and its engraved ‎message. These bear symbolism to the physical human body and the spiritual soul. ‎The mineral stone, which formed the background, represents the human body and ‎provides framework for all activity. The hallowed script documented the Divine ‎message and charged the Tablets with supernatural energy; this corresponds to the ‎human spirit which permeates, characterizes and drives man. ‎

When both the writ and stone were fashioned by Hashem they both had eternal ‎properties. If the Jews would have retained the First Tablets, they would have ‎guaranteed eternity for the corresponding human body and soul. The Angel of ‎Death would be powerless. Alas, they were not worthy and the letters flew to ‎Heaven and the Moshe smashed the stones. A new pair was made, this set however, ‎was hewn by mortal Moshe and written by Hashem; they had a Divine message ‎carved into a human background. In parallel, the body was now mortal once again, ‎but the soul which charged the body, retained its immortality. ‎

Myths and the Mishkan

Terumoh

Father grips the wheel. The weather is wet and the roads are slick. His son whimpers in the back seat, but ‎dad does not lose focus. Arrgh, tire debris. Their car skids and crashes into a tree. The impact instantly kills ‎the father but the child – ensconced in his five-point harness – survives with only broken bones. The air-‎ambulance lifts him to the hospital for immediate attention. It is not long before they wheel him into the ‎operating theater. The surgeon takes one glance at the boy, and chokes up. ‎

‎“I can’t operate, that’s my son.”‎

Impossible.‎

Or not? The surgeon was the boy’s mother. ‎

We are too quick to stereotype. This leads to all kinds of mistakes; erroneous, egregious and devious. ‎Inner reality becomes murky, even obscured, when myths become truths. ‎

Tznius is a prime example of the ideal being obscured. A plethora of misinformation has created an ‎atmosphere of uncertainty. Tznius has turned into a touchy and controversial topic. In many circles, mere ‎mention of the word is nauseating.‎

In today’s society, the foremost misconception is defining modesty by objective parameters. There is a ‎kernel of truth to this notion; there are details in the dress code which are cold judgments. But there are ‎really no hard and fast rules. A person’s gait and girth will affect the way they carry their clothes. Halacha ‎may provide a dress code, but this does not equate with Tznius. Modesty is an innate awareness, detached ‎from nitty-gritty facts. ‎

There are other mistaken beliefs which have gained legitimacy. People assume that dressing fashionably, ‎gracefully and trendily is incompatible with a Tznius image. ‎
The Tabernacle, as confirmed by the Kabbalists, was constructed to duplicate the human body. The holy-‎vessels correspond to various organs, and the walls provide the skeletal structure. The coverings, which ‎roofed the edifice and bedecked its sides, represent the clothing for the body. ‎

There were three coverings atop the Mishkan: ‎

  1. ‎ The bottom was a multicolored tapestry woven from wools and linen. ‎
  2. ‎ The middle layer consisted of panels constructed from goats’ hair. ‎
  3. ‎ Uppermost was leather, the animal skins supplied by rams and Techoshim. ‎

The largest and longest of the three was the middle covering. The extra material fell over the front ‎entrance and the balance trailed at the back of the tabernacle. Our Sages have descriptive imagery to ‎depict this additional drapery. ‎

Front Overhang:‎
Half of the panel hung over the eastern entrance like a modest bride who covers her face with a ‎veil (Rashi 26:9)‎

Back Drape
The School of Reb Yishmael taught: What did the Tabernacle resemble? A woman who goes in the ‎street and her skirts trail behind her (Shabbos 98b)‎

The Mishkan provides a fantastic refutation to the modern misconception. It combined, what current ‎society would view as opposing elements. In the spirit of a majestic woman she bedecked herself with a ‎trailing skirt. Simultaneously, she exhibited her modest character by veiling her face. The very same item – ‎the goat roofing – combined elegance and modesty. These two attributes, contrary to popular belief, are ‎not incompatible. It is possible to be both dignified and sophisticated. ‎