The inner voice

Friday, 5 April, 2019 - 7:27 am

 For these past two weeks I have been participating in a Swiss coachers’ course, which is taking place in the picturesque city of Salzburg, Austria. There are 20 people participating, most of them coming from the realms of the free market, some from the realm of finances. Almost all of them have been successful in life.

An essential part of the process is to search for the inner voice that a person carries with him/her from infancy, childhood or adolescence. To put it very mildly, I will define it as a voice that weakens, in spite of the fact that almost everyone in the course discovered a hurtful voice as well.

During the coaching and the learning I have understood and internalized to what extent we, the adults, as parents and educators, and perhaps also as aunts/uncles or mere acquaintances, might influence – for better or for worse – the emotions of a child we encounter; how careful we have to be with every word, and sometimes with even a possibly unnecessary grimace or eyebrow raised.

And yes, of course this connects with this week’s parasha.

In this week’s parasha, when dealing with the laws of the metzora (“leper”), there is an interesting halacha: a person who is metzora is tamei (ritually impure) and he must leave the camp for a week, until the lesion is healed and then he will be tahor (ritually pure). “He shall dwell in isolation; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

There are two stages in determining whether a person’s tzara’at is impure or not:

First of all, he must be examined by a Torah sage (not necessarily a kohen), who is an expert in the laws of tzara’at, so that the type of lesion can be determined.

But even after the expert’s decision, the metzora is not yet tamei. He/she must go on to the next stage: go to the kohen, who, on the basis of the professional decision of the sage, will declare that person tamei. As long as the kohen has not declared that the person is tamei, the person is not, and it doesn’t matter whether the kohen knows anything about tzara’at or not.

A question can be asked: Why is it necessary to involve the kohen? Why isn’t it enough to have the diagnosis of the Torah sage?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe gives one of his typical explanations, an explanation that is relevant to each and every one of us every single day: the minute that the metzora is defined as being tamei, he has to leave the camp and sit alone, ashamed and embarrassed – a terrible feeling. Therefore, the Torah says that only a kohen can determine such a fate for a person, because the kohanim are considered to be people of loving-kindness. Aharon was the symbol of a person of love and brotherhood, kindness and giving. In the blessing said before blessing the congregation, the kohanim say: “…Who sanctified us with his mitzvot and commanded us to bless His people, Israel, with love.”

Sometimes there is no choice, and a person must be judged, his fate determined regarding some matter, big or small. But this must be done from a viewpoint of love and kindness – and respect. It has to be done by someone who can feel the pain and the distress of the one being judged before he makes such a fateful decision.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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