Metzorah: The plagues of eyes

Metzorah: The plagues of eyes

This week’s Parsha is called Metzorah, which translates to leprosy. The Parsha uses two words to describe leprosy. The first, Negah – Nun, Gimmel, Ayin – and the second, Tzara’at – Tzaddik, Reish, Ayin and Tuf. Those words translate to lesions and leprosy.

Hebrew names are not just blank words used to describe something. Names represent the true character of the words they are trying to conceptualize. Why does the Torah use these two names to express these very severe impurities? No other impurity in the Torah is as severe as these where you must leave your community and live alone.

I would like to share with your some words from the Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidism. The purpose of every human being is to take any impurity or challenge in their lives and transform it into opportunity and something positive. How? By one key element, which is represented by the Hebrew letter Ayin. Ayin means eye. The cause of all mental, physical, and spiritual deficiencies is that we look at happenings with a negative eye. Ego: Why does he have more than me? Jealousy: I would like to have what he has. Anger: How dare he do this to me! Our attitudes have to change the way we look at challenges or events in our lives. One must look in a positive way, a humble way, a pure way.

This is why God gave us two eyes. The right eye is for looking at other people in a positive way. Right represents kindness, love, and giving. Seeing other people in their situations, we must treat them with kindness by looking at them with our right eyes. We should look at ourselves with our left eyes. We should look introspectively at ourselves and realize that we can live with less, that we can be happy with and appreciate what we have.

So why did the Torah use the words Negah and Tzara’at for this impurity? If we take the first word, Negah, whose last letter is Ayin (and in the Hebrew language, it is written as the last letter on the left) and we put the Ayin in the front of the word (as the first letter to the right), the word changes to Oneg – Ayin, Nun, Gimmel – which means delight, splendor, and sheer joy. Switching the Ayin from the left to the right indicates that we should look at everyone with the right eye – no deficiencies, no affliction but just with delight, joy, and splendor. Tzara’at – again, if we move the Ayin which is on the left end of the word and move it to the right end or beginning of the word, the word changes to Atzeret-Ayin, Tzaddik, Reish, Tuf. Atzeret translates to holiday. Every holiday is called Atzeret. The seventh day of Passover is called Atzeret, the holiday of Shavuot is called Atzeret, and the eighth day of Sukkot is called Shemini Atzeret. Switching your Ayin, your eye, from the left to the right, from a negative to a positive view, means you’ll have holiday, simcha – joy – in your life.

The upcoming holiday of Passover is about the eating of matzoh. Matzoh gets rid of ego, anger, and jealousy. Why? Matzoh represents humility. The dough didn’t rise, is not puffed up, it’s flat and has holes in it. We need to have our attitude like matzoh – flat and humble with some holes in it. Passover not only happened 3,500 years ago but it happens every year. Each year, we actually free ourselves from our instincts, limitations, and deficiencies so we can become humble and change our attitude of life and towards other people.

I encourage everyone to eat handmade matzoh after nightfall for the first two nights of Passover. By eating one matzoh each night, you will experience the freedom our ancestors had at this time and you will relive the humility of giving up negative character traits and change the way we look by using our right eye in a positive way.

I would like to end with one story about the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Shneerson. When the Rebbe was five years old, he gave candy to all of his friends. His father, Shalom Dov Ber, was observing his son’s actions from the window as his son was in the playground with his friends. Once finished, his father called the future Rebbe into their home and asked him, “Why did God create two eyes?” His father answered that the right eye is to share with others and your left eye is for yourself. Watching you with your friends, I saw that you gave your friends candy with your left eye. You did share but you did not give it with your whole heart and joy. Therefore, I encourage you to always give with your right eye. This five-year-old boy cried after his father taught him this lessons. He cried not because his father spoke harshly to him – his father’s words were very kind – but because he learned such an invaluable lesson. From then on, he changed his attitude for the rest of his life.

Shabbat Shalom and a Happy and Kosher Passover to all.