Friday, April 11, 2008

Parshas Metzorah: Plain Hyssop

With regards to the hyssop used for the purification of a metzorah, the gemara disqualifies all subspecies with a prefix added to the word hyssop since this indicates an entirely different variety. Only plain hyssop may be used.[1]

The medrash teaches that hyssop represents humility, and the Mei Hashiloach zt”l notes there are nevertheless many “species” of humility that are disqualified from use. “Greek hyssop” represents strategic humility, like that seen in a person who knows enough about the nature of his opponent to refrain from shouting during an argument, since this will make his claim seem irrational. “Blue hyssop” is the humility seen in a person who acts humble only because he knows that others respect a modest man. “Desert hyssop” is the humility of a person with poor self-esteem. Such a person feels like a desert, devoid of all good. His humility has little worth because he actually feels himself deserving of humiliation. “Roman hyssop” is the apparent modesty of a person who doesn’t bother “lording it over” simple people. He saves all his arrogance for people of stature. The only kosher hyssop is the plain and ordinary variety. This is the person who knows that everything good in him is a gift from Hashem, and so he feels no pride in borrowed finery.

Rav Pinchas of Koritz zt”l would say, “Most sins entail misusing one’s body in some way, but the sin of arrogance is an exception to this rule. All a person has to do to fall into the worst type of pride is to lie in bed and think, “I am the absolute greatest. There is none like me!”

Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa zt”l shared his view on humility. He said, “Why do we have two eyes? One helps me see how far my friend has gone, and the other lets me see how far I still have to go!”

[1] [1] See Sukkah 13 and Rambam, Hilchos, Tumas Tzaras, chapter 11 #1

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