week’s Parsha Perspective is dedicated by Mr. Binyomin Philipson in memory of
his late mother Mrs. Ellen (Elka bas Zisel) Philipson OBM
Sickness stalked the
streets of Vilna in 1848; an epidemic had struck, and dozens of townsfolk had
succumbed. Every house was filled with the dead and dying. Depression and
despair were rampant.
In times of sickness
and sorrow, the mind craves answers. People want to know why things are going
so spectacularly wrong, and if there is anything they can do to change the
situation. People look for someone to blame.
Salanter, the great ethicist and scholar, was approached by a congregant with
grave accusations against the family of one of the leading citizens of the
town. The informer was privy to certain distasteful details about a respected
family, and he was determined to share his knowledge with the rabbi.
“After all,” he
argued, “who knows if the plague isn’t divine retribution for their sins.
Perhaps if they can be made to repent, many lives might be saved.”
refused to be persuaded. “It’s too easy to point the finger,” he said, “blaming
everyone else for the tragedies and hardships of life. But tattling and
negativity is not the Jewish way. Far better to direct our efforts towards
self-improvement and correcting one’s own conduct than to focus on the failing
We learn in this
week’s Torah reading Metzora ([Leviticus] 14:1-15:33) about the metzora: During
Temple times, a man or woman who had gossiped or spoken negatively about others
would often develop symptoms of tzaraat – a leprous-like condition that renders
the sinner ritually impure. As part of the purification process, this person,
the metzora, would be exiled from home for a few weeks and forced to live
alone, outside the city borders, until the symptoms dissipated.
continued to explain that the sin of lashon hara, speaking negatively about
others, is not necessarily the same as lying. Gossiping is evil, and honesty is
no defense. You could be saying the unvarnished, absolute truth, but it’s still
a sin. The metzora is sent to solitary confinement not just to wait for his
tzaraat to cure, but to reflect on the lack of judgment that caused the
sickness in the first place.
Before rushing to
blame others or to indict someone else, do an honest analysis of your own
behavior. Spend a few weeks in the company of your own thoughts, and you may
very well come to realize that the cause of your troubles is yourself.
from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum)