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  • Writer's pictureNitzotzos

Parshas Metzorah - Something Like a Blemish (short vort)

וּבָא אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ הַבַּיִת, וְהִגִּיד לַכֹּהֵן לֵאמֹר: כְּנֶגַע, נִרְאָה לִי בַּבָּיִת.

And the one to whom the house belongs comes and tells the kohen, saying, "Something like a lesion has appeared to me in the house," (Vayikra 14:35)

In explaining the word כְּנֶגַע, something like a lesion, Rashi says:

שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ הוּא חָכָם וְיוֹדֵעַ שֶׁהוּא נֶגַע וַדַּאי, לֹא יִפְסֹק דָּבָר בָּרוּר לוֹמַר "נֶגַע נִרְאָה לִי", אֶלָּא "כְּנֶגַע נִרְאָה לִי"

Even a Torah scholar, who knows that it is definitely a lesion [of tzara’ath], shall not make his statement using a decisive expression, saying, “A lesion has appeared to me,” but, “Something like an lesion has appeared to me” [out of respect for the kohen, who is to make the decision]. — [Nega’im 12:5]

The Baalei Mussar ask the question, why does the Talmid Chacham who is proficient in the laws of Tzaras have to say that is something "like" a blemish. While he may not pronounce it to be Tzaras he certainly knows that is Tzaras. Why can't he simply come to the Kohen and say there is Tzaras on my home?

Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology provides an example to explain the difference between an optimist and a pessimist. A young couple has just had their first child. Standing over the baby's crib the father attempts to get the baby's attention but the baby does not appear to be responding to an audial stimulation. Dad comes to the immediate conclusion that their child is deaf. He quickly calls in his wife who also fails to get the baby's attention but rather than pronouncing the child deaf, she looks in a baby book and learns that often times babies develop their sense of hearing over time. She books an appointment with a doctor and continues to go about her life. In contrast, dad is an absolute mess. He can't eat, can't sleep etc... He constantly tells his wife, "I have a bad feeling about this." Even after the doctor conducts his examination and concludes that the child is healthy, the father is not assuaged until a week later when the child jumps at the sound of a backfiring car.

The Talmid Chacham who notices that he has a Negah Tzaras on his home begins his process of rehabilitation with the instruction that he is not to pasken that this lesion is absolutely Tzaras. As long as the Kohen has not paskened the shaila there is still hope. If Tzaras is born from seeing the negativity in others, a lack of optimism and hope for who they could become, then the rectification must come through becoming a positive person.

How we see the world impacts reality. Some people create lives of negativity. Everyone around them is wrong and bad and foolish etc.. Aside from the fact that they now live within a narrative where the world is a terrible place, the people around them are also impacted by being seen through the lens of pessimism. Often this is a function of how they see themselves and they are projecting their own insecurities out into the world.

On the other hand, we notice in life that positive people become nuclear reactors of love and light and hope. They seem to draw good things into their lives and people run to spend time with them. They are not foolish optimists, just people who have chosen to live in and create a more beautiful world. The Tzemach Tzedek said, tracht gut vet zein gut, think good and it will be good. Our positive thoughts have the capacity to make the world a more posiitve place.

Though recently it has become en vogue to speak about toxic positivity, the true positive person is not ignoring reality, they're framing it. Life can be extraordinarily painful and chaotic but we get to tell the story of our lives. May we continue to be sources of positive light in the world.

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