Thursday, April 3, 2008

Parshas Tazria: Outside? Inside!

Why must the metzorah be separated from the rest of the Jewish people? The Sefas Emes zt”l explains that the Jewish soul is so lofty, it has no connection to sin. Even the damage caused by the terrible crime of loshon hora is only manifest on the surface, on the speaker’s skin. This symbolizes that even the worst sins only “graze” the person superficially, but the “pintele Yid,” the holy Jewish spark, remains untouched.

The 248 limbs and 365 sinews of the physical body parallel the integrated body of the Jewish people. Since impurity has no grasp on the Jewish people as a whole, anyone showing signs of defilement is expelled to the outer perimeter—the “skin” of the camp. And there he must remain, on the outside with impure outsides, until he is healed through teshuvah. When that happens, he rises to the level of the baal teshuvah—and is considered greater than one who never sinned. Sometimes it takes a shock, like the appearance of tzora’as, to awaken the pintele Yid deep within so that the healing can take place.

Rav Eliyahu Lopian zt”l told a tale about a certain apikores who was notorious for the heretical ideas he tried to spread. Once, the man was afflicted with a severe disease. The doctors in charge of his case examined him closely and decided that his situation was grave indeed, and his only chance for survival was a difficult surgery. Although the chances were high that he might not live through the operation, the apikores agreed since it was his only hope. As he lay on the operating table, just as the anesthesia was about to take effect, the man cried out in a powerful voice: “I entrust my spirit into Your Hand, Hashem, the true G-d!”

Rav Lopian explained, “The Jewish spark of emunah was buried so deep inside this man, no power or person could penetrate that deeply. It was only the threat of imminent death that could awaken it and bring it to the surface!”

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