When things aren’t going well, perhaps we should take the opportunity to reflect on our behavior and try to determine the Godly message coming our way.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is Tazria (Leviticus 12:1-13:59), and it we read about a skin disease called Tzara’at, which is often confused with leprosy. Although there may be similarities between tzara’at and leprosy, they are very different. Leprosy is a medical condition, while tzara’at is a spiritual one. One who is afflicted with tzara’at is called a metzorah.
Tzara’at is considered to be a punishment from God for a variety of possible sins. The most famous sin with which tzara’at is associated is lashon hara — gossip, slander and other evil speech. One who has been afflicted with tzara’at must undergo a process of cleansing, including solitary confinement, at which time the metzorah is meant to repent from his sins and work on himself. After this is done, the tzara’at disappears and the high Priest proclaims the metzorah pure again.
Once the metzorah is declared pure, he must bring two offerings to the Tabernacle/Temple before re-entering the community. One of these offerings is known as a “guilt offering,” and the other is a “sin offering”..The sages ask why the metzorah is forced to bring two different sacrifices. In similar situations, only one is required. Why the difference?
It is explained that two offerings are needed in order to atone for two different aspects to the metzorah’s predicament. The guilt offering corresponds to and atones for the sin that caused the metzorah to be punished in the first place. On the other hand, the sin offering is said to correspond to and atone for any sins the metzorah committed WHILE he or she was a metzorah!
What sin could he have committed while in solitary confinement and contemplating his plight? The answer: Cursing God.
I guess you can’t blame the metzorah all that much for being angry with God. Tzara’at was quite a serious punishment. It looked awful. The recipient was banished from the community. Solitary confinement. No visitors. A person might certainly be tempted to curse God under such circumstances. This is why a second offering was required.
Life isn’t easy. We all go through hard times, and we’ve all probably asked God, “Why me?” or said, “This is not fair! What did I do to deserve this?”
We don’t know why bad things happen to us, but when they do, we must endeavor to keep a positive outlook and be strong in our faith. The Talmud teaches us that everything God does is for the good, even if the reason is not readily apparent.
When things aren’t going too well, perhaps we can learn from the episode of the metzorah and should use such times as an opportunity to reflect on our behavior and try to determine the Godly message coming our way. Challenges in life may often be used as a time to improve our ways and become better people.
For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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