Friday, April 11, 2008

Rabbinical Wisdom for the Friday

I thought this was pertinent wisdom:

Shabbat Parshat Metsora (Lepers)

The Torah says:

”if a person will have on the skin of his flesh different types of rashes and skin adhesions it will become a tzaraas affliction; he shall be brought to Aaron the Kohen, or to one of his sons the Kohanim.” (Leviticus chapter 13 verse 2)

The Talmud is very clear that the affliction of tzaraas [leprosy] is a punishment for having spoken lashon hara or gossip.

The Hebrew word the Torah uses for “person’’ in the above verse is Adam.

There are several Hebrew words for “person”: enosh, ish and gever. The ethical writings state that each refers to a level of spirituality, and "adam" represents the highest level. We must understand, therefore, the Torah’s choice of the word "adam" for a person afflicted with tzaraas.

The Chafetz Chaim, the great Jewish scholar of the last century, said that the juxtaposition of this portion of the Torah to that of the previous portion dealing with non-kosher animals is to teach us that people who may be meticulously careful about what goes into their mouths should be equally as scrupulous about what comes out of their mouths. There are sins that a Torah observant person would never do, but as for lashon hara, or gossip, it is a rare person who is saved from it. Hence, even a spiritual person, adam, is vulnerable to lashon hara.

The Midrash relates that a peddler went through the streets shouting, “Who wishes to buy an elixir of life?” Rav Yannai, who was engrossed in his Torah study, asked to sees his wares. The peddler took out a Book of Psalms and showed him the verse, “Who is the person who desires life and loves days that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech” (Psalms 34:13-14) Rav Yannai then said, “All my life I have been reciting this Psalm, but I never understood it until this peddler pointed it out to me. ” (Vayikra Rabbah 16:)

We can be spared from lashon hara if we incorporate the second half of the verse, “loves days that may see good.” In his introductory morning prayer, Rav Elimelch of Lizhensk says, “Help us to see the good in our fellows, and not their defects.” If we therefore concentrate on looking for the good in people, we will have no need to make negative comments about anyone.

(From the writings of Rabbi Abraham J, Twerski, M.D.)

(H/T: Rabbi Z.)

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