13 Shvat 5781 / Tuesday, January 26, 2021 | Torah Reading: Beshalah
 
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HomeSpirituality and FaithSpiritual GrowthTake Time to Reflect
 
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Take Time to Reflect    

Take Time to Reflect



Being in lockdown, quarantine, or isolation means that one should take time for introspection. He will stop looking at others and instead focus on himself.

 



“The person being cleansed shall then immerse his  garments, shave off all his hair, and immerse in  water,  and  become clean.”  (Leviticus/ Vayikra  14:8)  

 

As a young newlywed,  Rebbe  Simcha  Bunim  of  Pershis’cha zt"l lived in his father-in-law’s home in a Polish village. He had a pious friend who served as librarian for the town’s synagogue. Once, a pauper came requesting money for a pressing matter and the librarian advanced him a sum from the book fund, with the intention of repaying it back shortly thereafter.  

 

When the lay leaders of the community were made aware of this, they accused the librarian of theft. They sought to remove him from his position and impose a severe fine upon him for his embezzlement of the library funds. They convened a special meeting to adjudicate the matter.  

 

Rebbe Simchah Bunim zt"l understood the lay leaders of the community were not such righteous people, and worried they might mistreat his friend the librarian. He attended the meeting and told the attendees the following story:  

 

An epidemic once broke out in the animal kingdom. The Lion, King of the Beasts, summoned all the animals to a meeting to investigate which animal was guilty of the sin that brought God’s punishment upon them.  

 

First, the animals closest to the king spoke on their own behalf. Each declared their deeds to be justified. The leopard asserted he is not liable for his cruel nature, as this is how he was made. The bear argued he only attacks in self-defense. The wolf said he only devours sheep when very hungry in order to survive. Thus, the predatory animals justified their behavior and were declared innocent in the lion’s court.  

 

Afterward, a small lamb confessed he once ate a bit of straw his owner had set aside for another purpose. He did so because he was very hungry. Immediately, all the other wild animals cried out: “The sinning lamb brought this plague upon us!” They judged the lamb guilty and liable for the death penalty.  

 

Rebbe Simchah Bunim zt"l cleverly noted that the parable can be hinted to in the verse “I have strayed like a lost lamb – bakesh (seek out Your servant)” (Psalms/Tehillim 119:176), because bakesh (seek out) can also be read as “bekash”, meaning “by straw.” The innocent lamb who never hurt anyone else and is always hunted by others, would be punished and destroyed because of a minor sin of eating a bit of straw…  

 

The community lay leaders understood that the young future Rebbe was hinting to their tremendous injustice, that they themselves were guilty of sins of embezzlement on a much larger scale but always justified their actions. The meeting adjourned and the librarian was set free in peace. 

 

Our Sages teach: “Whoever finds guilt in others - projects his own faults” (Kiddushin 70a). Someone who belittles others, accusing them of arrogance or some other fault, betrays his own personal shortcomings in those matters.  

 

This is what the Mishnah teaches “a person can see any afflictions, outside of his own afflictions” (Negaim 2:5). The simple meaning of this Mishnah is to teach a law that a Kohen cannot diagnose tzaraas on himself. Many of  the  Baalei  Mussar understand it to mean that people only find faults in others, but not in themselves. However, our master the Holy Baal Shem Tov zy”a, had a deeper insight into this Mishnah. If one moves the comma in this statement, it can be read as follows “all afflictions a person sees outside of himself, come from his own afflictions”, meaning if a person sees flaws in others, this negative attitude comes from his own flaws, and are often projecting his own flaws on others.  

 

My holy ancestor, Rebbe Isaac of Kalov zy”a, explained, the leper is called “metzora” because he is “motzi ra”, he “brings out his own evil”. The metzora is guilty of saying slander and lashon hara about others, and it is on account of this sin that he his stricken with tzaraas. However, he reveals the evil hidden within himself when accusing others of this evil.  

 

Once, an epidemic broke out in the town of Rav Yisrael Salanter zt"l. A not-so-righteous man came to him and offered his opinion that the town was being punished because of the sins of so-and-so, a certain resident of the town. The Gaon Reb Yisrael answered, “Hashem commanded us to send the leper outside of the camp because tzaraas results from lashon hara. This leper, who constantly found the sins and flaws of others, is told: ‘if you are such an expert in finding sins, go outside of the camp where you will not see anyone else except of yourself, and find your own sins and flaws that you have to fix for yourself!’”  

 

Additionally, while many Rishonim, including the Tur, Ibn Ezra, and Ramban, explain that the metzora had to cover his mouth and leave the camp to avoid spreading the contagious disease of leprosy, the decree is actually heaven-sent for the benefit of the leper. Isolated from the community, he will stop looking at others and instead focus on himself. Then he can understand his own sins and accept upon himself to rectify his own behavior (Sefer HaChinnuch, mitzvah 169).  

 

Perhaps this idea is hinted to in the words of Scripture regarding the metzora: “and the one being cleansed shall then immerse his garments.” The metzora must purify and cleanse his behavior, as one’s deeds are the spiritual garments of the human soul. “And he shall shave all of his hair,” alludes to removal of his sins from himself, as the Kabbalists teach that hair represents the klipot (spiritual, evil husks) that cause one to sin. “And he shall bathe in water,” hints to immersing himself in the cleansing Torah, which is compared to water.  

 

Through Torah study he will discover what he must repair within his own soul. Only then, "he will be purified." He will be considered pure in the merit of his good resolution, “and afterward he will return into the camp.” Now he is ready to return to the company of others. He will no longer seek negativity in others. Rather, he will concentrate on fulfilling the noble resolutions he made for himself during his time of seclusion. 

 

***  

The Kalever Rebbe is the seventh Rebbe of the Kaalov Chasidic dynasty, begun by his ancestor who was born to his previously childless parents after receiving a blessing from the Baal Shem Tov zy”a, and later learned under the Maggid of Mezeritch zt”l. The Rebbe has been involved in outreach for more than 30 years, and writes weekly emails on understanding current issues through the Torah. You can sign up at www.kaalov.org. 

 

 





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