APRIL 1-2, 2011 27 Adar II 5771
"A woman, when she conceives and will bear a male." (Vayikra 12:2)
The previous chapter dealt with foods that a person may not eat, and spiritual impurities that occur in handling certain creatures. What is the line of reasoning that leads from that into a discussion of childbirth? The Ramban, in one of his works, as quoted by the new Orot Humash, writes that there is a direct relation between these concepts.
One of the central thoughts in the last section, referring to handling and eating impure things, is the verse "v'nitmetem bam" - lest you become impure with them. The word v'nitmetem would normally be spelled with an aleph. As it is actually spelled, it hints to a similarly spelled but differently pronounced word: v'nitamtem?- and you will become obstructed. The Sages (Yoma 39b) present the important concept of "timtum halev" - "obstruction" of the heart's ability to feel and to participate. Eating forbidden foods have the deadly, if initially invisible, effect of blocking the mind from being able to comprehend lofty Torah concepts accurately, and blocking the heart from feeling real sensations of holiness and spirituality.
The introduction of childbearing after the Torah's discussion of forbidden foods portends something even more ominous. The Ramban writes that when parents are lax in these laws, when they indulge in foods that the Torah prohibits, they cause a congenital obstruction for their children. They may be born handicapped, unable to properly connect to the Torah just as if they had, themselves, partaken of the forbidden. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
The perashah tells us that when certain sins were committed, a plague would affect either the homes, the garments or the skin of the Jewish people. Although this seems like a severe punishment, we must realize that all punishments are merely signals to us to examine our ways and improve our conduct.
Once, the owner of a large factory wanted to hire an experienced engineer. He advertised in all the trade journals and announced the time and place to interview for the job. Many candidates turned up at the designated time, but the owner failed to appear. Hours passed. The candidates grew annoyed and began to shout in anger. Only then did the owner come out calmly from his office to address the crowd. He said, "I don't know what you are angry about. You have been waiting in vain. Two hours ago, at the exact time that I had set, I sat in my office and began tapping out signals in Morse Code indicating that anyone who understood me should come into my office for an interview. Only one of you picked up my message and entered my office. He is the one whom I have chosen for the job. The rest have failed the test."
We know that Hashem is All-Merciful and loves us like a father loves his children. Very often, we get "signals" sent to us, some in the form of punishments. Punishments don't only mean drastic things, G-d forbid. Rather, they can also include inconveniences, minor frustrations and the regular ups and downs of everyday life. We must learn to recognize these signals from Hashem and focus on their meaning and their intent. This way we will live up to our status as the "Chosen People." Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"He shall dwell a lone; outside the camp shall be his dwelling." (Vayikra 13:46)
Hazal teach that sara'at afflicts a person as a punishment for lowering himself by engaging in slander and gossip. One can see a clear correlation between the sin and the punishment that it effects. One who is inclined to speak ill of others in public is punished with isolation from the community, so that he can contemplate his evil ways and the harm he has caused.
Rav Reuven Katz z"l asserts that the mesora's punishment presents more than a spiritual lesson. The isolation inflicted upon the mesora is designed to change his existing lifestyle dramatically and to improve him in a physical sense, while stimulating him to atone for his sin. The punishment is an attempt to catalyze a metamorphosis within the mesora, whereby the individual readjusts his perspective on interpersonal relationships.
Clearly, one who resorts to slander is not at peace with his surrounding society. Undoubtedly, this person's malignant tongue, constantly spewing gossip, estranges him from the community. Those who regularly besmirch others, casting aspersion on people and organizations, and fabricating lies simply to denigrate others ultimately lose their credibility, even among those closest to them. Family and friends distance themselves from him. Business associates seek other avenues to maintain their enterprise. In the end, the slanderer's activities will bring about his own downfall.
The Torah's message is therapeutic in a physical, as well as a spiritual, sense. We are taught that the mesora is one who contemptuously denigrates others, aiming to besmirch their reputations. Indeed, his begrudging nature has directly caused his present illness. The antidote is simply to isolate himself and contemplate his present situation. Only after much introspection will he recognize the root of his sin - himself. As a result of his self-discovery, he must eradicate the obvious flaw in his character, so that he can establish himself as a contributing member of society. (Peninim on the Torah)
Peer pressure is a powerful force. Styles of dress, hairstyle, and home furnishings are followed by the great mass of the population because everyone feels that it is important to look sharp in the eyes of others. On the other side of the coin are the rebels who feel that in order to make a statement, they will not follow the trend. They may even behave in a way contrary to the accepted norm in order to raise a few eyebrows and exhibit independence and individuality. "We don't care what people think!" is their credo.
Moshe Rabenu said, "You shall be clean [vindicated] in the eyes of Hashem and Israel" (Bemidbar 32:22). People should be concerned not only with satisfying the will of the Creator, but also with maintaining their reputation. But the concern should not center on gaining the respect of others for the sake of personal honor; rather, the motivation should be to behave in a manner that is above reproach because that is the right thing to do.
When we read stories about the conduct of our great predecessors, we often can't believe that any human being could think or act the way they did. We should realize, however, that even if the stories are exaggerated - which they are not - no one is telling stories like that about us. The accumulation of day-to-day incidents in the lives of the giants of our past built their reputations and created an aura of greatness and respectability around them, prompting others to write about their lives.
As you run through life's activities - work and leisure, physical and spiritual - stop and consider what others might say about your behavior. True, you should not be controlled by peer pressure, by the opinions of friends and neighbors; however, it only takes a minute of self-evaluation to add another beautiful brushstroke to the picture that others will see - the portrait of you. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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