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by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"If a sara'at affliction will be in a person (adam)" (Vayikra 13:9)

It could be argued that one's perspective, one's way of looking at things is the greatest factor affecting a person's ability to learn the crucial lessons of the Torah. If a person views the Torah as would the average layman he would be confronted by many things that are confusing and seemingly unfair. However, if one approaches the Torah with the correct Torah outlook, many things are easily understandable.

The Zohar says that the Torah uses many different words to describe a "man." They are: adam, geber, ish and enosh. The loftiest description is adam. Now we are confronted with a great difficulty. The Torah, in the pasuk quoted above, refers to an adam getting leprosy. We know that leprosy is no longer with us. In those days, leprosy was an illness caused by sins. It turns out that if one would be living in ancient times he would see the greatest, most righteous men breaking out with leprosy, but the average person would be fine and unblemished. What a confusing situation that would appear to be!

Rabbi Yitzchak explains that this person is great and Hashem wants to purify him even more - that since his level is so high, he gets leprosy. By going through the purifying process to rid himself of leprosy, he emerges even greater. Today we aren't great enough to have leprosy.

This illustration of the leper should affect us greatly in how we view the ill and the suffering among us. Perhaps they are our greatest people. May Hashem spare all of His people of any suffering and may He bring a speedy recovery to all of the ailing people of our community and of our entire nation, Amen. Shabbat Shalom.


Hershel Ostropolier was the wagon driver for Reb Baruch, the saddik of Mezebusz. Reb Baruch was once traveling from Minsk to Dvinsk, when Hershel asked him, "I've been wondering...What does it feel like to be a Rebbe?"

Reb Baruch smiled. "Hmmm. That's a difficult question to answer. But I have an idea: Why don't we exchange clothes - I'll pretend to be the wagon driver, and you will be the Rebbe. Then you'll see for yourself how it feels!"

"With pleasure!" Hershel cried excitedly. Not only did the two switch clothes, they also switched roles. Hershel instantly became the illustrious passenger, sitting erect and gazing out at the passing scenery. And Reb Baruch, now dressed as Hershel, took up his part in this innocent charade by hunching over the reigns of the horse as he guided the coach into the town. When the villagers discovered who their guest was, they crowded around the carriage begging for blessings.

Unfazed, Hershel, seated in the rear of the coach, proceeded to generously dispense one blessing after another. Everything was going well, and Hershel was feeling exceedingly self-confident, until the local non-Jewish landowner stepped forward. For years, he had been trying to find a way to get more work out of his Jewish farm workers, but they had insisted that their religion forbade them to labor on the Sabbath. It infuriated him that he had to hire gentile peasants so that his farm wouldn't lie idle every seventh day.

The landowner had started studying the Bible with the intention of finding in it a way to prove to the Jews that their religion was nonsensical. Then, he was sure, they would realize the folly of their strict adherence to it and would agree to work on the Sabbath. The only problem was that the more he studied, the more sense the Jewish faith made, even to him, a devout Christian. However, he persevered, and at last he found what he had been seeking. And now, with this great scholar's visit to the village, he took the opportunity to present his case in a way that would publicly humiliate them all.

He approached "Reb Baruch" and in a loud, resounding voice, challenged, "You Jews maintain that your Bible contains all the laws that govern your lives, including the commandment to rest on the Sabbath. I maintain that that law is as baseless as the one concerning eating dairy and meat products together. Why do I say this law is baseless? Because your own Patriarchs did not observe it! In your own Bible it is clearly stated that Abraham served his guests meat and milk."

The villagers were simple folk, and none of them knew how to reply to the landowner. As one, they turned their heads toward "Reb Baruch" praying that his sagacious response would refute the landowner's claims.

Hershel Ostropolier began to perspire under his rabbinic raiment. His heart pounded in his chest and he knew he was in deep trouble. Hershel was the same man who once had gone into a shul, stacked up a wall of sefarim four feet high, and then taken a nap behind them. Now he was being asked to explain a most difficult passage in Torah, and the answer he produced would affect the lives of every one of the poor villagers before him.

He considered his options: If he answered incorrectly, he would embarrass the Torah and the One Who had given it. If he didn't answer at all, he would embarrass his Rebbe. And if he admitted to having exchanged places with the real Reb Baruch, he would end up embarrassing himself.

"Reb Baruch" stroked his beard and thought and thought. Finally, it came to him. He looked the landowner squarely in the eye and declared, "Why this matter is so simple that even my unlettered wagon driver would have no trouble answering it!" (Hey Taxi - Hanoch Teller)

Pop Quiz: Besides on the body, where else might sara'at (leprosy) be found?

Answer to pop quiz: On clothing or on a house.

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