The Torah Podcast Transcript
The Torah Podcast 052 – Torah Portion of the Week – Metzora – How to Tweak the Mind Body Connection – Physical and Spiritual Integration – A Powerful Parable about the Sick Man in a Remote Village – A Great Story about Rav Shach and Peace in Your Home – Rejecting of Encouraging Compliments
Torah Portion of the Week – Meteor – How to Tweak the Mind Body Connection
The parsha starts out where Hashem speaks to Moshe and Aaron, and tells them about the laws of tzoras. Tsoras is translated to be leprosy, but that’s not really what it is. It’s a spiritual disease. It’s not leprosy.
The verse says, if someone has this on their skin, they should go to Aaron haCohen or the sons of the Cohen, and he will take a look at it and see if it’s tamei or tahor, is it pure or impure? If the Cohen says that it’s impure, then the person is going to have to be separated from the community.
Rav Dessler explains that when the Jewish people were on a high spiritual level and there were miracles happening, diseases were dealt with on a spiritual level. He brings a proof from Divrei Yamim 16:12 that when King Assa had a disease in his foot, he was criticized for not going to seek the Lord, the possuk says. Rather, he went to the physicians. The Ramban brings that verse as a proof that at the time of the first Temple when people were sick, they didn’t go to doctors. They used to go to the Prophet, to the Navi, and he would tell them the spiritual cause of their sickness. According to this view we see clearly that sicknesses really have a spiritual root. We don’t look at it these days, we go to the doctor. But ultimately, the real cause for us being sick is some kind of spiritual ailment. We usually don’t connect sickness with a sin. But that’s really where it’s coming from. And the Ramban says that even in our day, a person could check out and understand what’s going on with him spiritually, from the physical problems that he has.
The Ramchal goes on to explain that these skin afflictions are spiritual forces of tuma, impurity, which attach themselves to a person as a result of his sins. The skin afflictions are the physical expression of an impurity. It’s pretty unbelievable. But it’s also hopeful, because he explains that the tsoras is therefore given as a sign that Hashem still loves that person, and has not given up on him. In other words, God will give us signs how to correct ourselves if we’re still close to Him. If we’re so far away we don’t care and it’s not even going to help, so Hashem won’t do it. But for someone that He loves and someone who’s close, He’ll direct him in the right way. He says that tsoras exerts a form of spiritual pressure to awaken the person to repent, and actively seek out the Cohen to help them rectify and purify himself. By going to the Cohen, we can be redirected. He can tell us what’s wrong, because all of our sicknesses really come from our soul. It’s the mind-body connection. That’s what all the New Age healers speak about, the mind-body connection. It was written in the Torah thousands and thousands of years ago. Now look what the Ramchal says about it.
The verse says, “A Cohen should take the blood of the guilt offering,” this is the offering that was given by the person who had this disease, “And the Cohen should place it in the middle part of the right ear.” He puts some blood on the right ear of the person, of the one being purified. And on the thumb, his right thumb, he puts some blood on the right thumb. And he puts some blood on the big toe, the right big toe, Vayikra 14:14. This sounds like some kind of witchcraft but this is the reality. The Ramchal explains, “Why was it put in these three places? Because this represents a total spirituality and physicality of the person.” He says, “The ears are located next to the head, which is the seat of the neshama, the highest part of the soul. And the hands are the extension of the torso, which is the seat of the ruach, the middle part of the soul. And the legs extend from the stomach which is the nefesh of the man, the animal spirit of man. This blood was placed on all the extremities of the person so that it should spiritually and physically heal them. The verses go on to say that after that there was oil that was placed on all these places. The Ramchal explained, that was to sanctify the entire body. He says, there are two levels. First it was purified, then it was sanctified, which is a higher level. We see from here the connection between man’s sins, his thoughts, his intellect, and how it affects his body.
Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch explains the other aspects of the sacrifice that was brought in order to purify this person who had this disease. He would bring cedar and hyssop and wool and worm blood. It sounds like science fiction. He explains there that cedar is the highest level of the plants, and hyssop is the lowest level of the plant life. Wool comes from the highest level of the animals, which is the mammal. The worm is the lowest level of living things. These things all represent the entire range of fauna, the entire spectrum of animal and plant life. This was to teach us that we should have control over our animal nature. That man has to go according to his intellect, according to his soul. In this way, his body will also be healthy. But this is not just a one-way relationship between the body and the soul, it’s symbiotic. We know in last week’s Parsha, we talked about eating kosher food. The Ramchal explains that the animals that are permitted to us are rooted in kedusha, in holiness. In other words, they have in them a certain holiness that we need to uplift to even a higher level, which is not true by non-kosher animals. He explains that it’s even a mitzvah, commandment for us to eat these animals, because by eating them we uplift the kedusha, the holiness that’s in them gets uplifted. It makes us holy. We know that the two qualities that a kosher animal has is that it chews the cud, and that it has split hooves. The Ramchal explains that these two signs are associated with holiness. “Chewing the cud,” he explains, “Is the ability to take something that’s low, and uplift it. And split hooves is the ability to receive, to take something from above and bring it down.” In other words, since the hooves are split, there’s like a clear passage from the Shemayim, from the heaven to the earth. And that it chews the cud, it’s taking it from the earth up to the heaven. That’s why these animals are permitted to us, because they don’t interfere with our spirituality. They actually enhance it.
God-forbid, we should eat something that’s not kosher. The verse says, “And do not defile yourself with them, and become defiled through them.” The Ramchal explains, “What does it mean defiled? It means sealed off. God-forbid somebody eats a treife, unkosher animal? He gets timtum halev, his heart closes. He gets closed off spirituality. He explains, “The spiritual lights can no longer reach him. In this matter, the conception of impure foods is the worst type of impurity that a person could be affected by. The spiritual influence of Hashem is removed from someone who eats this type of food.” That’s a scary thought. Here, you have the opposite happening. The food that the person eats is affecting his spirituality. It’s going from the body to the soul. And if God-forbid he eats treife food he becomes insensitive, he becomes God-forbid, an apikorsus. He stops to believe in God, he doesn’t know why. It’s the food. The food is blocking his connection to God. The body is affecting his spirituality.
It says in the possuk, “Zos HaTorah behaima.” Why “This is the Torah of the animals?” Because the food that you eat is affecting whether you can receive the Torah or not. It’s a very scary thought. Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch says, “When a person is kosher it guards essential aspects of our personality, from unrestrained animalistic passion. And it keeps our moral and spiritual will from becoming dulled and unresponsive.” We eat treife, we’re going to become numb. “But when you eat kosher,” he says, “It enables the body to be an obedient servant to the noble part of our being.” In other words, in this connection, this mind-body connection, we want to give the advantage to the mind. If we eat treife, so the mind will have the power to overcome the body. The question is now, what if God-forbid we did eat treife? What if we didn’t eat kosher? What are we supposed to do now? That’s it, we’re stuck forever? We can wait seven years till every cell in our body changes. Eat kosher for seven years, and everything changes. But what do we do in the meantime?
The Shem Mi Shmuel brings the first Rashi in this week’s Parsha. The Parsha starts out with the impurity of a woman who gives birth. Rashi says…he brings the Vayikra Rabba. Rav Simla said, ‘Just as the fashioning of man came after all the cattle, the beasts and the fowl in the Torah’s account of the creation,’ in other words man came last, “Kach, so too, do we explain the laws of man after the cattle, the beast and the fowl.” In other words, all the things that come in this week’s Parsha. The laws of a woman giving birth, you have bris milah, circumcision. It talks about tsoras, leprosy, and all the tumah v’tahara of a man. All those laws come in this week’s Parsha, after last week’s Parsha which was the laws about which animals we can eat. So, the Shem mi Shmuel has a kasha, a difficulty on this Midrash. He says, “Wait a second. Before this, we had all the denim, laws of man. We had mishpatim. What are you talking about? Up till now we had hundreds of laws of bein adam lechavero, between man and man. So, how can the Midrash be saying that now we’re talking about the laws of man? It’s not true. We spoke about hundreds of laws before this.” He brings a Vayikra Rabba to help explain. The verse in Tehillim says, “You have fashioned me after and before” – after the creation of the six days, and before the creation. If man is worthy he will say to him, “Your creation preceded even that of the ministering angels.” And if he’s not worthy, we say to him, “A fly preceded you. A gnat preceded you. And this worm preceded you.” The Midrash explains, there are really two distinct creations of man. Before everything was created, it starts talking about man’s soul. Man’s soul, which was the purpose of creation, was created before everything. The last thing that was created was man’s body. That was created after the animals. So, what is the Midrash telling us? If our soul has overcome our body, and our primary outlook towards life is spiritual, then we can be proud that we were created first. But if we live as an animal, we have no interest in spirituality, then even the members of the insect world will realize their potential greater than us.
So, when Rashi brought the Midrash that man came after all the animals, the beasts and the birds, that was talking about his physical aspects. And these laws of this week’s Parsha are talking about the physical aspect of man – what’s man supposed to do if he has leprosy? If she has a boy it’s 40 days, if she has a girl it’s 80 days. Bris milah, also changes the physical. These are the laws of the physicality of man.
Now, the question arises, why was man created as two separate creations? Why didn’t God create man’s physical and his spiritual on the same day? The Shem mi Shmuel wants to answer, “Because he didn’t want the link between them to be too tight.” Why is that? Because if man started to go downhill, there would be no way to pick himself up. In other words, if he ate treife, what could he do? That would be it, it would be gamarnu, finished. But the soul even though it is connected to the body, and there is the mind-body connection, the soul is way above. Even if the person fell and he ate treife, he could still pick himself up. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the body itself gives the messages to the person (through disease and health) on how to do teshuva, and how to change himself.
Rav Moshe Feinstein has a kasha. It says that if a person has tsoras, this kind of spiritual leprosy, he has to go to the Cohen. He says, “Wait a second. What if the guy himself is a Torah scholar, and he could see clearly that the tsoras that he has is pure. Why does he have to go to the Cohen? He knows he doesn’t have to go to the Cohen, he’s pure.” He answers that even though it’s true that it’s pure, but any change in the body means there’s some kind of spiritual problem happening. He still has to go to the Cohen to get direction. He has to learn how to change his ways. He needs to know what to do to improve himself. And not only that, he explains that it’s very detailed. The message that Hashem gives us through our bodies is exact.
The Torah says there are two kinds of categories of tsoras. There are ones like inflammation, and the other one is like a burn. The Halacha, law, is that those two don’t combine. He explains, “That’s because each affliction when its inflammation and when its fire, are two separate things. They correspond to two different types of sins. It’s midda keneged midda, measure for measure. Everything that happens to us is exact. Therefore, through our bodies we could learn how to connect to God.” This is unbelievable. The person will know how to repent, based on the details of what’s happening to him.” He explains, it’s even true with all types of suffering. A person should check out exactly what’s going wrong in his life, because it’s very detailed. It’s hashgacha pratis. How does he feel? Where does it hurt? What was said? What were all the details? The circumstances are all there to teach us how to change our ways and go forward.
We see that this mind-body connection works in both ways. If we eat the wrong food, we eat treife, we’re going to affect our souls. If our souls are going in the wrong way, we’re going to affect our bodies. The main thing is now we have to learn from what’s happening to us, what Hashem is sending us. We have to learn from that and go forward.
A Powerful Parable
The Maggid Mi Dubno brings a moshul, parable like this. The verse says,“When a person will have on his skin and flesh a spot of intense whiteness or an off-white spot, or a snow white spot.” These are some of the details of tsoras. One time there was a man living in a remote village, who fell ill. He was in terrible pain, but there was no doctor in the village, and there was nobody passing through the village. It was very offbeat. What could the man do? He laid in his house and he suffered. One time though, some merchant stopped by the village to feed his animals. The sick man heard there was somebody new here, he got a little bit of his strength together. He started to scream out, “Please help me, please help me.” The man thought, “How could I help this person. I’m not a doctor. You know what? I could take you to the big city. When everybody sees what kind of shape you’re in, surely someone’s going to come help you.” The nimshal is that when Hashem gave the Torah it was guide for us to act. If he goes in the right way, good. But if he sins, his soul suffers terribly and there’s no salvation. Who’s going to help him? What did Hashem do? He made it that the person should be struck with blemishes. This way, anybody who sees this person who has this tsoras will come to him and speak to him, because they understand that the person sinned, and they will help him by speaking to him, to guide him back on the right way.
Great Stories – Rav Shach
The verse says, “His garments shall be rent.” We know that tsoras is also spread to physical things, to the house and to the garments. If it goes to the garments, the garments have to be ripped. Why is that? Because we know that this comes from the sin of gossip. Tsoras comes from loshon hara, people speaking bad one against the other and embarrassing somebody else. So too, when a person’s clothes got tsoras, it embarrassed him. So, we take the clothes and we rip them. Rav Yochanan said, “My clothes are my honors.” Since his clothes were supposed to honor him, but this honored him, they have to be ripped.
Rav Shach used to say, “In the old days, people were much more serious. They understood the secret of clothing, that clothes are honor. People will wear nice coats, nice suits, nice hats.” He said, one time he went into a courtroom and he saw this gentile judge with all these robes. He understood that those robes produce a serious atmosphere. He said, You could just look at a community and see from their clothes who they are. Are they serious? Are they respectful? But when you see people wearing torn and faded clothing, you could understand that the place is a place of no respect – a lack of seriousness.
Peace in Your Home
Rav Simcha Cohen talks about rejecting and encouraging compliments. He says, “Many couples, start out happy and as time goes by, things start to decline.” He says, a woman complained to him that, “My husband never has a kind word for me.” So the husband said, “Yes, she taught me to behave this way. I would tell her the food tasted good, what would she say? ‘No it isn’t, you’re just hungry.’ I would buy her this expensive robe. I was exhausted from shopping, looking for the robe. I get home and she would say, ‘Oh, what did you do, you found a surplus?’ I’d bring her home flowers, and she would say, ‘Oh, the flower vendor was probably just trying to get rid of his last bunch.’ She told me to stop giving her compliments and bringing her things, and buying her presents.
He said to the woman in front of the husband, “When he said the food tasted good and you said, ‘Oh, you’re just hungry,’ you probably wanted him to answer, ‘No, the food really is good,’ and she agreed. And when you claim that the present that he bought you was just surplus, you probably wanted him to say, ‘No, I bought it for you because I care about you,’ and she nodded. And when you put down the flowers, you probably wanted him to answer, ‘No, I brought them to show you how much I appreciate the hard work you do for me.’ And she said, ‘That’s right.’” What’s going on here in this interaction that happens in almost every home? It’s counter-intuitive. When the wife rejects everything that the husband’s trying to do for her, what she’s really trying to say is, “Please say it again. Please tell me that you love me. Please tell me that you really meant it.” So, even though it’s difficult, the man has to understand really what’s going on behind the message there. The stronger the man is, he’s able to give more to his wife, that she really believes that he loves her. She’s saying to him, “Tell me again, so I’m really sure that you love me.”
But a woman has to be careful also. If it took her husband a lot of effort and a lot of time to bring that present, she shouldn’t be negative. It’s not the time to test whether your husband loves you or not. And if the husband is coming with sincerity and he’s trying to improve the atmosphere in the house, don’t knock him down. This could work either way. This could happen with either of the couple, but whatever happens, you have to encourage the other person to continue their good behavior. You have to motivate the other person. If they give you a praise, you have to say, “Thank you.” You have to motivate them. At the beginning, everything’s awkward, because if up till now we haven’t been acting that way, it’s a little bit strange. But if we start to change our thought patterns and our speech patterns, so things in the house will change. It needs to be encouraged. By encouraging the positive behavior of your spouse, you increase that behavior, even if at the beginning it’s awkward.
A person thinks, “Why should I encourage my spouse? If he doesn’t want to give me a compliment, so I don’t want a compliment that he doesn’t really mean.” It’s the wrong way of thinking. Even if the compliment’s not the best compliment, encourage your spouse to do it. Make them feel comfortable giving you a compliment. Make the other person feel comfortable giving you a present, because then things will build, and grow geometrically. It’s a question of creating a new habit in the house, a new pattern which can be built up to become natural. Like everything that you learn, everything you do, at the beginning it’s awkward. But if you start to compliment each other and you start to give each gifts, and everybody accepts it with love and a positive attitude, so the whole pattern can change.
Okay, that’s it for this week’s Torah Podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it with your friends, and please leave me a rating on iTunes.