JERSEY SHORE TORAH BULLETIN
TAZRIA - MESORA
THE BIGGER THEY ARE
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
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
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)
Answer to pop quiz: On clothing or on a house.