Thursday, April 23, 2009

172 - Tazria - Metzora

The Ramban (Vayikra 13, 47) writes that tzora'as is a completely supernatural phenomenon. It occurs only in the chosen land of Eretz Yisroel, it will befall only the Jewish People - and only when they maintain an elevated level of spirituality. When an aveirah is committed in such a spiritually charged environment, Hashem causes tzora'as to appear on the sinner's house, clothing or body to indicate that He has distanced Himself from the offender as a result of the transgression.

Rav Wolbe writes (Da'as Shlomo) that in such an era, Bnei Yisroel lived with an amazing amount of Hashgacha Pratis. One who spoke lashon hara would immediately be punished with tzora'as; as if Hashem were literally speaking to him as two friends would speak to each other. Even so, the Ramban writes that people were only afflicted with tzora'as after Bnei Yisroel conquered and divided Eretz Yisroel. Despite the straightforwardness of Hashem's message, only after they were settled would they have the peace of mind to be able to fully recognize Hashem and His Hashgacha Pratis.

Rav Wolbe continues that the essence of the Torah is to help us reach such a level of Hashgacha Pratis. The Rambam writes that the purpose of the mitzvos is to aid us in diverting our thoughts from the mundane in favor of living completely with Hashem, so to speak, enveloped in Hashgacha Pratis. Moreover, the very inception of the Jewish People as a nation was brought about through Hashem demonstrating to Pharaoh and teaching Bnei Yisroel that, "I am Hashem in the midst of the land" i.e. constant Divine Providence.

It is interesting to note that the Seder is constructed in such a manner which helps us fulfill the dictum, "In every generation a person is obligated to feel as if he left Mitzrayim." We eat maror and charoses so that we can "taste" the bitterness of bondage and relate to the servitude that the Jews experienced. We eat matzah and drink the four cups of wine while reclining, so that our bodies sense the exhilaration of freedom. Why must we experience the exodus? Wouldn't retelling the wonders and miracles of Yetzias Miztrayim suffice to bring us to emunah in Hashem? The answer is that we are striving to achieve more than just concretizing our belief in Hashem. We are trying to bring ourselves to a state where we too are enveloped in Hashem's Hashgacha Pratis. We are to come to the realization that, "Originally our forefather's worshipped idols and now Hashemhas brought us into His service." Right now on the Seder night, Hashem is taking us by the hand and guiding us - the ultimate Hashgacha Pratis.

Unfortunately, Hashgacha Pratis is an abstract concept for many of us; we acknowledge it in our minds but it never makes its way to our hearts. What is a practical application of Hashgacha Pratis to which we can relate? Many people feel pangs of jealousy. This one has a middah which he is lacking and the other has better intellectual capabilities (all the while oblivious to their deficiencies). There are even those who wish they could forgo their talents so that they need not answer to all those who expect more from them. The Mashgiach writes that the solution to these problems is internalizing the concept of Hashgacha Pratis. Every person was put in his particular situation with a plethora of external and internal factors that are hand tailored for his unique purpose in life. It won't help to be like your neighbor or friend, because you will never accomplish what you have to accomplish.

Rav Naftoli Amsterdam once commented to his Rebbe, Rav Yisroel Salanter, that if he would have the intellectual capacity of the Sha'agas Aryeh (a renowned genius), the heart of the Yesod V'shoresh Ha'avodah, and the middos of Rebbe (Rav Yisroel Salanter), then he would be able to properly serve Hashem. To which Rav Yisroel responded, "Rav Naftoli, with your mind, with your heart and with your middos you can become the true oveid Hashem you are supposed to be."

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