Torah Weekly

For the week ending 5 April 2008 / 29 Adar II 5768

Parshat Tazria

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Torah commands a woman to bring a korban after the birth of a child. A son is to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life. The Torah introduces the phenomenon of tzara'at (often mistranslated as leprosy) a miraculous affliction that attacks people, clothing and buildings to awaken a person to spiritual failures. A kohen must be consulted to determine whether a particular mark is tzara'at or not. The kohen isolates the sufferer for a week. If the malady remains unchanged, confinement continues for a second week, after which the kohen decides the person's status. The Torah describes the different forms of tzara'at. One whose tzara'at is confirmed wears torn clothing, does not cut his hair, and must alert others that he is ritually impure. He may not have normal contact with people. The phenomenon of tzara'at on clothing is described in detail.


A Rose By Any Other Name

“The kohen will look and behold — the blemish has not changed its color.” (lit. has not changed its ‘eye’) (13:55)

Give me one word in English for the French word ‘chic’. ‘Chic’ is something so quintessentially French that to translate it into English would require a truckload of adjectives.

The characteristics of a nation are evidenced in its language. In every language there are words that cannot be directly translated into any other language. To translate these words adequately usually requires a sentence.

There’s a word in Yiddish (and Hebrew) — to fargin. To fargin means to feel pleasure at someone else’s success without the slightest twinge of jealousy.

Happiness depends on the way we look at life. We can see our glass as half empty or half full. It all depends on how you use your eyes.

In this week’s Torah portion there is a lengthy description of a spiritual disease called tzara’at. One of the shortcomings that brought on this affliction was the failure to fargin, a ‘narrowness’ of the eye, a ‘constriction’ of the vision.

When a person focuses on reality in the correct fashion, he realizes that there is nothing in this world that is mere coincidence; there is no slapdash extemporizing.

For example, let’s say my next-door neighbor and I both buy lottery tickets. He buys No. 17756233/a/th/567 and I buy No. 17756233/a/th/568. Two weeks later I wake up and hear him shouting at the top of his voice “I won two million dollars! I won two million dollars!”

If my eyes are focused on reality correctly, immediately I should feel tremendous happiness for him, because I had no chance of winning the lottery at all.Even though I had the next ticket it could have been ticket number 00001 for all the difference it would have made.

Happiness is understanding that what G-d decrees for someone is that person’s and always was his. There’s no ‘coming close’ to what is allotted for someone else. To think otherwise is self-delusion. Realizing this is one of the secrets of happiness in this world.

Interestingly, the word in Hebrew for both the ‘blemish of tzara’at’and the word for ‘pleasure’ have exactly the same letters. The blemish of tzara’at is called a nego. Pleasure in Hebrew is oneg. The only difference between these two words is where you put the letter ayin. Ayin in Hebrew means ‘eye’. If you put the ayin in the wrong place you end up with a spiritual disease — a nego. But if you put the ayin in the right place,if you put your eye in the right place, you have ‘pleasure’ — oneg. This is the pleasure that comes from farginning, the pleasure that comes from looking at the world through the lens of reality.

  • Sources: Mesillat Yesharim, Chidushei HaRim

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